Monday, 28 February 2011

The Great Sunday Bake Off part 2

Here were the wonderful volunteers at one of the baking drop off points early this morning.

They were very organised sorting the cakes.

The little girl in lilac had made ginger bread men for the children of Christchurch (mum told me that they had hosted some refugees from the quake zone).

Then we all got the chance to write on a banner which would be on the side of the truck as it drove to Christchurch.

The guy who dreamt up the whole project is a fitness instructor. Anyone else out there find this a tad ironic when all those calories were flying around?

STOP PRESS. I just heard from another Wellingtonian that not only did the truck get filled with cakes, but the "excess" was sold and raised $14,000! Yay Wellington!

Sunday, 27 February 2011

The Great Sunday Bake Off - Part 1

When the going gets tough, the tough get baking! Some bright spark in the capital (I don't know who), had the idea of a city wide bake-a-thon.

The goodies will be driven down to the earthquake zone on Monday to feed those in the tent cities, the Search and Rescue volunteers and civil defence. It has really captured everyone's imagination. Tomorrow for two hours in city square, right before everyone starts work, "they" (whoever they are), will load a truck of cakes, muffins, slices and scones, and sail to Picton (free, courtesy of our ferry company) then take the drive south.

My muffins are in the oven, and I am anticipating the 6.30am train tomorrow to smell like a Boulangerie! Only in New Zealand...

Watch out for some photos tomorrow.


So, so grateful for Shabbat with friends after such a harrowing week.

Friday, 25 February 2011

Christchurch Earthquake photo

I have no idea who to credit for this photo, as I found it on a twitter post this morning. It was taken seconds after the earthquake from some hills outside Christchurch.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Christchurch Earthquake Updates has regular news about the earthquake. No more survivors have been found overnight.
photo courtesy

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Our Darkest Day

Not feeling like posting anything after the terrible disaster which hit Christchurch yesterday. At 12.51 a magnitude 6.3 earthquake at 5 kms deep (i.e. very shallow and dangerous) hit the city. It was much more devastating than the September 4th 7.1 because so many people were going about their daily business.

The city centre is a disaster zone, and many are still trapped in buildings.

If you pray, prayers would really be appreciated for our nation, and specifically for the thousands of people who have damaged homes for a second time in 5 months.

Thank you.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Lions guarding

We have a stunning War Memorial in the capital, just at the entrance to the Parliamentary gardens.

Wellington NZ

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Sweet Home Manama 3 - a Top Gear post

Another diary entry from 2003

One of the striking differences between the UAE and Bahrain is the average age of the cars on the road.

The life cycle of the average Merc/BMW/4 x Lexus is probably in the range of 2 years in the Emirates due to the high accident rate or the kudos of having a new vehicle as often as possible. Here on the island, a 15 year old Mazda is considered a youngster, and the more dents the better (I believe the Bahrainis may be second cousins to the Italians).

So, you would be forgiven for thinking that the cars here are low on accessories. Not so. Global positioning systems may not be the average “Comes as Standard”, but they do have something similar. It’s called a cat’s whisker. Not in the radio sense you understand. Maybe I should explain.

If Mr Mohammed gets in his car in the morning and reverses too quickly, he will be met by a howling resistance as he runs over cat number one, who is sleeping peacefully against the tyre, replete with the contents of Mr Mohammed’s dustbin.

If the same gent decides to drive to afternoon prayers, he will find the same cat, bruised, but persistent, lying on top of the same tyre, in the shade of the wheel arch.

By evening prayers, the aforementioned, slightly flat cat will be stretched on the roof of his car, scratching its head against the arial, thereby gaining better reception to the local radio station. Should Mr Mohammed choose to drive again to the Mosque, it is very likely the cat will accompany him there, being too exhausted to get off the car. Due to the afternoon heat, it is, like as not, welded to the roof.

As the condensation of the days heat accumulates on the car, by midnight the cat has slid from the roof, cleaning the back window en route, and will be found underneath the tyre the following morning.

And so the wheels they keep a turning.

© by Sparrowchatter 2011

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Sweet home Manama 2 - Bread of Heaven

A short email I sent from Manama in 2003

I don’t know if it’s possible to buy anything in the UK for 15 pence.

Here in Bahrain it buys you two loaves of flat bread the size of the Sunday Times.

Eaten fresh it melts like rice paper in the mouth – a day old and you could make kitchen cabinets out of it. Eaten within 15 minutes of the oven it fills you enough to make you purr contentedly on the sofa. Left overnight rigamortis sets in, to bread and hungry consumer alike.

I believe the children of Israel had a similar problem with manna.

Time sometimes stands still in this bit of the Middle East……

© by Sparrowchatter 2011

Sweet Home Manama

I had the privilege of commuting to Bahrain from Dubai between 2000 and 2003, then I moved there and lived on the Island for 18 months between January 2003 and June 2004. Recent events there don't surprise me, but they do tear at my heart. The islanders are wonderful people, and they do have legitimate grievances. I am going to repost a few diary notes over the next few days of my time on the island. They will make you smile, and if you are the praying kind, I hope they will give you a compassionate heart to pray for the Island

There must be few countries in the world where the taxi drivers seem indifferent to how much you pay them. Bahrain is an exception. On Wednesday my first taxi ride was in something from the 1960’s with a front passenger seat which kept collapsing on the person in the back. The meter’s wires were sticking out of the dashboard like two friendly caterpillars.

“How much?”
“As you like”, came the reply. I gave him a Dubai fare for the equivalent distance, his smile said
“A few more passengers like her, and I’ll be able to sell this wreck”.

Later I was picked up by a young Bahraini taxi driver, in a slightly newer model (1970’s).

“I’m saving to go to school, to learn English properly”
“How much for the ride?”
“As you like.”

Driver three picked me up after I’d had strolled for an hour after my last appointment along the beach road. One of the few days in the year when it would be cool enough to attempt. My feet however were beginning to feel 12 months lack of activity.

“How much to the airport?”
“Three dinars”
“ Oh dear, I only have 2 left”
“ No problem”
The journey is spent talking about the relative merits of the island for fishing. I get out at the airport, having been given the taxi driver’s telephone number, should I need a “chauffeur” the next time I’m in Bahrain.
“Madam if you only have 2 Dinars, keep it!” I didn’t of course, and we left saying farewells like long lost cousins.

© by Sparrowchatter 2011

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Dancing with shadows

Early this morning I pondered the pampas grass which decorates our railway station. As I waited I enjoyed the shadows dancing. It reminded me of pantomime cries of the children "He's behind you! He's behind you!". And of course the shadow is never seen or caught.

This evening I cut a jacket pattern from a roll of wallpaper. I had carefully pinned an old and worn out woollen jacket to the paper, measured it, lengthened it, tweaked and pulled, then gingerly cut it out. The shape had been "pricked with a pin" through the existing jacket, to form the design. As I did this, it was as if my mum was behind me, like she was forty years ago when she first taught me to sew.

So with encroaching darkness the overhead light was turned on, I cut and I pinned and a shadow was cast on the carpet, my mum guiding nervous hands over polka dot wool.

Of bread sticks and diamonds

Cher readers, does anyone know why a cut of diamond should have the same name as these amazing baguettes? I can't imagine wearing one of Monsieur Le Febvre's bread sticks on mon petit pinkie! I would never be able to type!
© by Sparrowchatter 2011

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Dry Bones Blog

Yaakov Kirschen has been tooning about the Middle East for 38 years. His current and past toons can be viewed at

Thanks Yaakov!

Monday, 14 February 2011

Lady sings praises of the blues......

Adoring every petal that grows without my bidding, but at the bidding of the Creator.
© by Sparrowchatter 2011

Sunday, 13 February 2011

and after coffee, dessert!

Let me know when you can head south to Latitude 41 degrees. I am sure we would demolish all the tarts made by Patissier Max @ La Cloche, Kaiwharawhara.
© by Sparrowchatter 2011

Saturday, 12 February 2011

I invite you for coffee......

A place to swop secrets, Parnell, Auckland
© by Sparrowchatter 2011

Friday, 11 February 2011

Imitating concrete's a real talent for our two wild boys.
© by Sparrowchatter 2011

No wonder the Egyptians were enchanted

Thursday, 10 February 2011

A tale of two kitties

We have adorable 10 month old kittens living under our office. Their mother had 5 kittens, taught them to hunt in the shadow of a cathedral, then vanished with 3 of her progeny. The two who were left behind we have tried to catch, without success. So we are very content to feed them and try to tame them a little. They are completely adorable boys who we have named after the first Bishop of Wellington Octavius Hadfield. The photos are blurred because they were taken on massive zoom. I also have a sprained wrist, which makes holding something still really difficult. So introducing Octavius and Hadfield.
© by Sparrowchatter 2011

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Sparrow "Des Res"

Only in the upmarket suburb of Parnell would you buy a designer bird table for your designer balcony on your designer villa.
© by Sparrowchatter 2011

Sunday, 6 February 2011

An iPhone just can't compete......

Oh the joys of the telephone box

Parnell, Auckland
© by Sparrowchatter 2011

As the Irish would have it..........

Tree trees....
Parnell, Auckland
© by Sparrowchatter 2011

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Business trip boycott

The kitten has decided I am not allowed to fly tomorrow morning.
© by Sparrowchatter 2011

Permission to take off

Taken on my tip tip toes - the tree must have been 30 ft high and this flower stood at about 10 feet. Conveniently the bee had clearance for take off just as I took the shot.

Greytown, New Zealand
© by Sparrowchatter 2011