Tuesday, 29 March 2011

The houses took their seats..........

.......to watch the frolicking in the Bay. Those in the top seats misbehaved, throwing toffees on the roofs of the villas in the front row.

Oriental Bay, Wellington NZ

Saturday, 26 March 2011

You know you are in Christchurch when.........

Courtesy of today's Dominion Post.
Geonet or ChristchurchQuakeMap is your homepage
The rest of the country offers you a place to stay
Munted and buggered are official technical terms
You go "pfffff" when Wellington has a 4.5 earthquake thats 40km deep
You see a nice park in another city and think it would make a good evacuation point
You sleep in one suburb, shower in another and collect water from yet another
You drive on the right side of the road and no one thinks it's wrong
You are happy two police officers came to visit
Your bike becomes your best friend
You think it is fine for a soldier to be stationed at the end of your street
You see armoured vehicles driving down the road
It's normal to greet people with "do you need a shower?"
Every house is a crack house
Instead of rushing to the clothesline to get clothes in when it rains, you put dirty washing on the line in the hope it will rain enough to clean them
Going to Wellington to escape earthquakes makes sense
You have tied the pantry, liquor cabinet and all the cupboard doors closed - and not to keep the kids out
You prefer to sit under the table instead of at it
You think electronics that have "shock proof" should say to which earthquake magnitude
Your en-suite has a veggie garden dog kennel and grass
Your teenagers are only too happy to sleep in the same room as their parents
Dressing up to "head into town" means putting on a hi-viz vest, hard hat and boots
Discussing toilet habits with total strangers is an everyday norm
Voluntarily staying in Timaru for 5 days seems like a good idea
You have dust mask tan lines
When a massive group of students appears in your street, you feel overwhelmed with gratitude, instead of calling the police. And what's more they leave the street in better condition than when they arrived.
The answer to where anything is "it's on the floor"

Wellington, here and there

Outside the city library

At Smith the Grocer, Old Bank Arcade

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Lexicography and the Art of making curtains

Almost thirty years ago, I studied lexicography as part of my undergraduate degree. The art of dictionary making and etymology has been a life long fascination. These days the English language is stretched as never before with the world of technology, social networking and text language, not to mention borrowed words and terminology from languages that brush elbows with ours on a daily basis.
What to leave out and what to include? In our household, we have adopted a new verb, which has developed from a personal noun. To be ottoed.
Otto, our large, placid and ever hungry tomcat / panda, loves to be where we are, wherever that is. His presence can be felt in the laundry basket, on the table, on the ironing board, bulging over the edge of the “in tray”, in a drawer, in the bed/wardrobe, sock drawer or smooching the computer keyboard.

This evening he helped make curtains. I am making replacements for all the windows in our dining room and living room. This has involved many hours kneeling with pincushions and Otto’s much beloved and chewed tape measure.
It was lovely to have his company – me pinning, him washing various bits of his anatomy and rumbling with a steady purr, watching the flicking tape measure with ever dissolving restraint.

I suspect I will own the curtains much longer than my dear friend. He is waddling into his twilight years, but I will always remember the evening that I made the curtains and they were very lovingly Ottoed!

Sunday, 20 March 2011


Today is the Festival of Purim - yesterday I attempted for the first time to make Hamantaschen, a biscuit filled with poppy seeds. It was fun and messy, but there was only one perfect sample, as the biscuit dough collapsed on the other cookies. I am convincing myself that the other slightly warped versions will have fewer calories!

Chag Sameach!

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Bahrain al Kabeer

Image Credit: Reuters

Image: © by Sparrowchatter 2011
I have been watching the news about Bahrain with growing alarm and sadness. I still think of it is as "my" island. Overnight I heard that the government had destroyed the Pearl Roundabout where all the protesters have been gathering. I have been trying to come up with an emotional equivalent for this landmark, but have failed. The pearl memorialised the island's history of pearl diving - which was its lifeblood prior to the discovery of oil in the region. So in many ways it was an anchor to the past - honouring a way of life which vanished.

I wrote many letters home in the time I lived on the island. In one of them, I wanted to describe the street where I worked to my friends. Those of you who live in Bahrain will be able to picture it.

Each evening I pass a small cafĂ©, patronized by the elderly gents of the town. It resembles a dilapidated conservatory; floor to ceiling glass windows and old formica tables surrounded by odd wooden chairs and benches. After evening prayers, the place fills up with the domino/card and backgammon brigade. They huddle together with glasses of sweet tea, headcloths piled untidily on their heads, sleeves rolled up, ready for business. Four plastic chairs are parked outside the door on the narrow pavement, all the better to inhale the exhaust fumes from the stationary traffic at those “oh so clean” traffic lights.

Next door there is a bakery. Well, that’s a bit grandiose. It’s a hole in the wall with an iron gate and bars covering the hole. Inside there is a traditional stone kiln like oven, similar to a conical beehive on its side. The baker slaps the round flat bread on the inside of the kiln wall, and peels it off seconds later to serve. Today I saw a similar one in Isa Town, close by where I live – same iron grill, same small hole to purchase the bread through. The question I have is, what are those iron grills stopping you stealing? A 500 cwt oven?

Back to the street. In my haste to drop off an item at the tailors a week ago, I didn’t really check the name of the establishment. As it is close to where I work, I knew I would find it again easily. Only when I drove past a day later did I notice the shop sign.

Al Qaeda Tailor.

I’ll let you imagine the details. Just be assured, a turban is not part of my new ensemble.

© by Sparrowchatter 2011

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Japan, Japan, Japan

I have never been a material girl. I lived for years out of a couple of suitcases and accumulated very little. Books I suppose were an exception, but I was never one for nick nacks and clutter.
But this morning I was reflecting on how many stories are told by each picture on the wall, earrings in a box, or piece of glass or china on the dresser. Most objects in my life have at least a five minute story behind them, usually quirky, often very funny, and always, ALWAYS, with a person who has given my life joy. It can be random – like a small nest of matrioshka dolls given to me by a Russian army pilot (curious?), a candle holder - a gift from a grateful neighbour, dangly earrings made from walnuts, a tray woven from African grass. Each brings a face to mind, a period of life, tears of joy, or small pangs of sadness.
I mention this because I have not known a tsunami. I don’t stand empty handed with nothing to remind me of who I am and who are the people I care about. It may be an odd thing to say, but I would mourn a life without “stuff”, not because it has intrinsic value, but because it gives my life shape, and identity. It provokes a smile, a memory, blinks a snapshot in time.
I can laugh at myself in a photo sporting an ‘80’s perm, or wearing a hippy skirt. I can shrink with embarrassment at my only certificate for swimming, or the appalling math grades on my high school report.
When I look at the towns in Japan which no longer exist, except for the occasional flotsam and jetsam that wasn’t consumed by the wave, I wonder how can they start again, with no evidence to show of what was before. How do you reclaim your memories amongst the mud and the timber and the shredded landscape? How do you start again when you can’t point your finger at anything and say “You are mine, you are my history, you were a point along my journey”.
Japan, I wish you memories, individual and collective. I wish you family and friends - the anchors of hope.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Trivial pursuits

Oh to wander aimlessly in Greytown, Wairarapa.
Or be lazy and drink coffee at Smith the Grocer

© by Sparrowchatter 2011

Sunday, 13 March 2011

The Daily Tart

This post is dedicated to my friend Carol, an artist who paints Paris dreams www.parisbreakfasts.blogspot.com
© by Sparrowchatter 2011

Thank you Japan

Dear Japanese USAR team. Thank you for coming to Christchurch's help, in the midst of so much devastation. We appreciate that you came so far to help us find those who were lost under so much rubble.

We are watching in horror at the destruction of your own beautiful country. We want to help you too. We pray for you and trust that you will recover from this terrible natural disaster.

Love New Zealand

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Tsunami in Japan

Our prayers go to the families and friends of those who have been killed or are missing in the Japanese. Tsunami. We at the end of the world only received a small portion of that wave, so we cannot imagine how hard it was for those in its wake.

Otto San, our ever watchful (ahem!) cat slept through the Civil Defence warnings.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Inanimate dancing

Sugar Corps de ballet

Dancing soap

Dancing Poles

Dancing bricks

© by Sparrowchatter 2011

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Shots of randomness

Of fairy jacuzzis

and outrageous nose-jobs

handbags in windows

and kittens in handbags
© by Sparrowchatter 2011

Monday, 7 March 2011

In my lady's chamber

This was where I spent the evening. And I'll let you into a secret, I wasn't taking part in an International Taikwando competition. Tonight, I officially became a Kiwi.

The ceremony took place in the Council chamber in the Town Hall.

The lady Mayor has a very impressive chain of office, which reaches her waistline. Imagine my joy when having my photo taken with her. "Where did you get that gorgeous necklace?" she whispered in my ear "Israel. The designer Orna Lalo. It was a gift". Now for someone with at least a kilo of precious metal around her shoulders to be admiring my jewellery, well that was REALLY something!

Finally, the two of us, British by birth, Kiwi by choice (and this lovely fella was the one who bought me the jewellery).

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Where flowers bloom so does hope

Autumn has arrived and our walk through the harbour involved a very quick wet visit to the farmers market. I was juggling a large bag of apples and avocados when these flowers stepped across my path to introduce themselves.
I am so happy that we met!
© by Sparrowchatter 2011

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Gaby and Ofer

Two years ago, I went to visit friends on the S. Island. I flew, then took a bus. The bus station is right in the city centre, behind the iconic Cathedral, a Cathedral that now lies in ruins.
I was surprised to see a menorah inside the main door, and asked one of the guides why it was there. She replied that the church wanted to extend its welcome to people of all faiths, and this was a very recognisable symbol of the Jewish faith, and that was why it was chosen.
I stood for a while and watched reactions to this menorah. Many people stood for a long time to look, and this lady decided to pray.

This week two of Israel's finest Ofer Levy and Gaby Ingel died close to the cathedral. It has touched me deeply that these two men should lose there lives so far away from their loved ones. They, along with around 10,000 Israelis each year visit our islands. We are honoured that they come to the Ends of the Earth to spend time with us.

To the Levy and Ingel families;

Hamakom yinachem eschem b'soch sha'ar availay Tzion v'Yerushalayim.

"May Hashem, Who is everywhere, comfort you amongst the other mourners of Zion and Jerusalem."

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Of cakes and flowers and things ginger

Sometimes memories from childhood erupting into your present can be very comforting. This week was one when we all needed some tender loving care.

On my way to work this morning, I called into our local bakery. In the 6 years we have lived in this small town, it is only the second time I have been there. But I'd forgotten to pack a lunch, so was looking for a cheap sandwich to buy. Huddled in the corner of the cabinet was a freshly baked Battenburg cake. I bought that too and took it to my office to share. This was the kind of cake my grandma served at Sunday tea time.

At lunchtime, I came across a photo which I put on the desktop screen of my computer. It was of a cluster of snowdrops growing in the undergrowth of a tall tree. These were the flowers which grew in my great aunts garden, down by the stream.

Later a friend dropped by with two beautiful calla lilies. It was a sympathetic gift, knowing I was hurting over the death of two people in the earthquake. Exactly seven years ago, I carried a small posy of calla lilies on my wedding day.

This evening as I weeded to a frenzy a wild patch in our garden, I saw a flash of ginger in the bushes; the kitten chasing moths, just like the ginger cat of my childhood. Dancing at dusk with the fairies of the night.

And so to dream, to lie down and remember the days long ago of high tea and posies and whiskers a twitching.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

At 12.51pm, we shall remember them.

The Governor General of New Zealand, speaking at today's vigil on the steps of Parliament. Over 5000 people attended the ceremony. Bill English, the Deputy Prime Minister stands behind him, and the Vicar General to his right.

Can it be only one week ago? 154 confirmed dead, so many still missing.
© by Sparrowchatter 2011