Still clinging on to holiday mode.

Despite the moon boot I’m wearing because of a small fracture in my ankle, I am still managing to get away on holiday. I have recently been down to the Wairarapa and stayed in the lovely little town of Greytown. not true to its name, it is far from grey and has been voted prettiest town in New Zealand and I’m inclined to agree with that. The main streets are lined with lovely villas and the historic buildings house some stylish wee shops. I was on a non-buying effort but I couldn’t resist the art shops and paper shops.

I spent far too long in the Kotare Art Gallery.  I loved the cards done by local artist, Janet Atkinson.

KOTARE ART STUDIO & GALLERY GREYTOWN

Kotare Art is the working studio of Greytown artist Sandy Wong; best known for her New Zealand bird and tree paintings, owls, anthropomorphic steam punk characters and the occasional abstract.Sandy was absolutely lovely and I bought (sigh, as usual), a bird for Sam and a butterfly sculpture for my sister’s birthday.

Sandra Wong, butterflies. You can buy any number you like.

The other shop I returned to is a small art shop called The Village Art Shop. Janie Nott is a quirky artist whose husband runs the shop and I have bought her cards before as they really appeal to me. They are full of whimsy and humour.

To “shop” the main street, allow yourself a few hours as there are plenty of good cafes along the way. As always I like to look at the real estate and dream of the country idyll. The good thing about the Wairarapa is that there is a train to Wellington.

Of course it is also wine country and we had fun tasting and eating at local vineyards. Here I am enjoying a platter at Loopline Vineyard.

We also enjoyed an informative chat at Olivio Olive Grove, tasting not only the pure olive oil but also the cumin, chilli, vanilla, lemon etc, infused olive oils. The owner recommended some of them with icecream desserts.

If you haven’t had the Mount Bruce Pukaka experience I can highly recommend it.  At the risk of sounding daft, seeing the white kiwi really was a magical experience.

She is really quite a large bird.
Here she is in the dark. We had a front seat view as she pottered about right at the front of the enclosure.

From the website:

On 1 May 2011 Manukura, little white kiwi, hatched. This was a delightful surprise to the rangers and team at Pukaha as she is the first white kiwi to hatch here and, as far as we know, the first white kiwi to hatch in captivity.  

You can see Manukura every day in our nocturnal kiwi house. She shares this with another North Island Brown Kiwi called Turua. We are hoping that in the future they will be more than ‘just friends’ and will mate.  She has quite a cheeky personality and at times is a little mean to Turua and chases him around. It does make for great kiwi viewing though!

Manukura is not albino (where there is a lack of melanin that makes pigmentation white and features pink eyes) she is pure white which means she is the rare progeny of two parents who carry the recessive white feather gene.

Totally cute overload.

There were lots of other interesting things to see too and you can incorporate a bush walk as well, if you aren’t wearing a moon boot.

   

We managed to include a small detour to Napier on the way home especially to visit Pasifica restaurant, As their website says, “You will not find white table clothes or snooty waiters. instead, you will enjoy true kiwi hospitality and generosity. Pacifica offers world-class food, an outstanding concise wine list, front of house staff that are knowledgeable, friendly, and professional in a relaxed quaint setting in the heart of Napier.

The above is is all very true and the wait staff are the same people who have been there each time we have visited. And it is very reasonably priced too with their degustation menu of five courses at a modest $65.00. We chose the seafood version and I was lucky enough to be the non-driver so I also did the wine match. The chef is Jeremy Rameka and the maitre’d is his wife Natalie who is absolutely wonderful.

This was the menu on the night we went but it changes every day.

I began with a bubbly called Squawking Magpie. Their website says, “Squawking Magpie, Gimblett Gravels is the flagship label, presenting wines of richness, strength and complexity, from a refined, elegant Chardonnay to a deep, concentrated Cabernet Merlot.” I don’t know about any of that but I bought two bottles of the bubbles on the strength of my one glass.

Image result for squawking magpie bubbles

The other memorable drink for me was the dessert match, a very sweet syrupy sherry (?) perfect for rich desserts. I am no wine connoisseur so take my recommendations with a grain of salt but I do trust Pacifica.

I was lucky enough to be given this bottle the next day by my dinner companion so I now need to replicate the divine chocolate bread pudding.

On the way down I realised I didn’t have much reading material and the forecast was rubbish as well as the restrictions of my moon boot so we stopped when I spotted a book sale in Tirau. For the princely sum of five dollars I found in very quick time, some books to read.

in summary:

My favorite TV series of all time was One Summer by Willie Russell. It must be close to 35 years old now but fantastic as long as you can translate the strong northern England accents.  He also did Educating Rita and Shirley Valentine. This book was a great holiday read.

The next book I read was Cleaning Nabokov’s House. I knew nothing about the author but again, it was a fun holiday read and I finished it in a day or so, so was engaged enough to read it at two sittings.

Three others to go but as it’s book club tomorrow night again I will have another book to read too.

Finally, don’t miss Three Billboards Outside Ebbing

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

 

Frances McDormand 
as Mildred Hayes was superb. 
Happy January and if you are back at work I hope it is all bearable. FG

New Year Resolutions

#1 Cut out sugar.

That one lasted until 2 pm whereupon I decided it would be good to get rid of the sugary things in the house so I wouldn’t be tempted. Consumed two chocolates, one milk choc bar mini, large slice of butter-iced Christmas cake.

#2 Read more, binge-watch Netflix less 

Finished The Music Shop today by Rachel Joyce. 1 point to me. It was a nice Christmas read. She’s The Pilgrimage of Harold Fry writer. It has a similar flavour and style but a bit more charm.

Points off to me as spent afternoon binge-watching Sensitive Skin, Canadian version. Now tempted to find UK version as Joanna Lumley stars in it, although Kim Cantrell was pretty good.

#3 Get outside every day. Nope, blew that one as well. Still got moonboot on.

# 4 Reduce amount of time spent on Facebook watching cat videos, surgeries gone wrong and other weird shit. 

So don’t watch these. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/google/7625230/The-10-best-cat-videos-on-YouTube.html

Have been marginally better but it is only day one.

#5 Write a blog a week if for no other reason that just writing. Tick day one, week one.

# 6 Go to more plays and art exhibitions. Technically not new year but last week I went to the Corsini exhibition for the third time. Enjoyed this visit the most for some reason. Maybe more selective. Always a soft touch for cherubs.Such a good feeling going with my AG membership card. I can take a visitor too so if you want to go let me know. This is a good gift I think.

After the Corsini we went to

Yayoi Kusama: The obliteration room

 — 

Also spent a lot of time across the road at the Fingers Gallery trying on the Karl Fritsch rings as though I could afford them.

Developed a minor passion for Warwick Freeman’s white butterfly brooch. (Hint, Sam if you are reading this, my birthday is in April and they are $150, much cheaper than Karl…Mum.)

Image result for white butterfly brooch NZ designer

Enough resolutions. At least I have taken down the angels already. I hate looking at old stuff, including plates on the table after eating at a restaurant and old Christmas stuff after Dec 27. However, apparently in the UK Easter buns are for sale and that’s just silly.

I

Handy tip: if those Commando hook tabs break and you are left with a well-stuck hook, do the following, heat with a hair dryer and then use cat gut or dental floss and gently ease down the back of the hook and voila! it comes off without leaving a mark.

Heading off to the Wairarapa for a few days tomorrow, so happy new year people. Let’s hope we see a lot less of the orange blob and N Korean nutter this year. FG

Fast Speaking Women

That’s me, and not always thinking about it first either…

I have just been enjoying the interview with Selina Tusitala-Marsh on National Radio today. I first came across Tusitala-Marsh when she performed Fast Talking PI at Auckland Uni. She is now NZ’s poet laureate and first Pacific Islander to receive the award.

During the interview she mentioned that she got her inspiration for her poem from a poem by Anne Waldman and I have just enjoyed listening to it. Tonight we have our book club Christmas dinner and i just love getting together with those women. We are all a lot of the women described in Waldman’s poem and it made me think about my book club, my walking group, my women friends.  I hope you enjoy it too.

Warren Adler says on his blog called Why Do Women Read more Novels? , “There is ample statistical evidence showing that adult women read more novels than men, attend more book clubs than men, use libraries more than men, buy more books than men, take more creative writing courses than men, and probably write more works of fiction than men. If, as a demographic, they suddenly stopped reading, the novel would nearly disappear.”

Any ideas why? I know I would much rather read a novel or a biography about the Holocaust than a history book as it answers to my emotional core, my intuition and my heart in a much more direct way.

Any way back to Selina Tusitala-Marsh. I find it unbelievable that she is the first PI woman to graduate with a PHD in English from the University of Auckland.  She is a wonderful poet who also does so much encouraging young people into poetry. Influences are so critical I think, when it comes to poetry. I had a poem by Vincent O’Sullivan on my wall at university and The Merseysiders opened up a whole world of poetry that was presented in such a palatable way for a teenager.

I read and reread this book until it was in tatters. Eventually one of my students in my English class “borrowed” it so I’m hoping they reread it a lot too.

English teachers who valued our own writing at school and published them will always be influencers. I remember a colleague published a little book at school by Bec Runga and I still have it today. The poems remain powerful.

I went on to love Marge Piercy, Adrienne Rich, Carol Ann Duffy (my current bedside book again), the NZ poets of all dimensions, and now some newer poets like Hera Lindsey Bird. A while ago I decided to ditch all the books I knew I would never read again and I got down to one book case full. Mostly they are poetry books. What are two books you would keep if you were only allowed two?

Selina talks of the influence of her university colleagues who told her she simply had to do a doctorate, she was given no choice.

 

Pacific poet: Waiheke resident Selina Tusitala Marsh performing her poetry.

Here Selina is performing this great poem.

I had a Christmas card once of a woman with her hands tied in the kitchen sink and it read, “Merry Bloody Christmas”. It’s cool if you like cooking and doing the Christmas thing but its also cool if you say, nah, not my thing. Think I’ll read a book. What pleasure is there in rushing around trying to please everyone? I have got my present buying down to a few magazine subs and some presents for my son. My special friends and I will get together over a wine or a meal some time over the break and that is perfect for me and them.

It’s the book club bash tonight though and I am looking forward to the book swap, the bought pizzas and the homemade pav! Annabel Langbein’s recipe.

Yes, I like cooking but on my own terms. Happy Holidays, FG

I just know I wouldn’t be that brave

For book club this month we are all choosing a book to read and then swap with someone else. I’ve chosen two, and the first one is the sequel to Jo Jo Moyes’ Me Before You”. Now I could get all literary snobby about this and call it a guilty pleasure or something but I’m not. I read it in one day and thoroughly enjoyed it. I didn’t love it and it won’t last long in the memory but it was a fun read. I could criticise a lot about it, for example she is given a lot of dosh by the previous chap and mooches about not doing anything much and only finds happiness via another bloke.  I like to think that if someone gave me a pile of money I would do something more interesting than buy a flat and waitress in a horrible bar. But I do like a happy ending.

I recently read an interesting article about the Jack Reacher series. I’ve read quite a few of the novels and always like to have one to read on a long haul flight. Again, I could pretend they are rubbish and badly written blah blah and I guess maybe they are but why are they so widely read?

The article above tells us, ” Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels are insanely popular. There are 21 in the series; he writes a new one every year, and in 21 years he’s sold an estimated 100 million books. Someone buys one every nine seconds. He has the highest return readership rate of any bestselling author: if you read one Reacher novel you’re likely to read more. This is my fourth, or fifth, or maybe sixth. They blur into each other.”

They sure do blur into each other, at quiz night recently The List was JR novels and I couldn’t remember a single title even though I’ve read half a dozen of them. But I don’t care, if I see one lying around I’ll be lost to it for quite a few hours.

Danyl McLauchlan, comments, It would be easy to say that Reacher is a male fantasy, but when Child is questioned about this he points out that two-thirds of his readers are women (you don’t sell 100 million books without a keen understanding of your product’s target market). 

However, I can’t quite accept that Child’s novels are “post feminist”!

I also love it that Lee Child was made redundant from the BBC and took up writing and made squillions.

Lee Child's Jack Reacher books have sold an estimated 100 million copies.

Anyway, back to today’s heading. The second book I chose for the book club is called The Alice Network by Kate Quinn. No particular reason for the choice except that I left the carefully circled 100 Best Reads from the Listener at home by accident and just ended up browsing in Whitcoulls.

It is an easy read and the thing I liked about it was that the some of the characters  were real women who spied for the British in World War 1. There they were wrapping code in their hat pins, crossing borders, helping British soldiers to safety, all under the nose of the Nazis in France. I just know I wouldn’t be brave enough. One look at a Nazi border crossing and a barking Alsatian and I would pee my pants. I feel guilty coming through customs in New Zealand even though I don’t have any contraband.

In the novel, “the queen of spies”,  Louise De Bettignies, plays a lead role and she is so brave!

Wikipedia tells me about her:

A citizen of Lille since 1903, she decided, from the German invasion of the city in October 1914, to engage in resistance and espionage. Multilingual (French – English – German – Italian), she ran from her home in a Lille vast intelligence network in the North of France on behalf of the British army and the MI6 intelligence service under the pseudonym Alice Dubois. This network provided important information to the British through occupied Belgium and the Netherlands.

The network is estimated to have saved the lives of more than a thousand British soldiers during the 9 months of full operation from January to September 1915.

The “Alice” network[12] of a hundred people, mostly in forty kilometers of the front to the west and east of Lille, was so effective that she was nicknamed by her English superiors “the queen of spies”. She smuggled men to England and provided valuable information to the Intelligence Service. Also, Louise prepared for her superiors in London a grid map of the region around Lille. Like the naval battle, lines were identified by numbers on one side and the letters of the alphabet on the other. When the German army installed a new battery of artillery, even camouflaged, this position was bombed by the Royal Flying Corps within eight days.

Another opportunity allowed her to report the date and time of passage of the imperial train carrying the Kaiser on a secret visit to the front at Lille. During the approach to Lille, two British aircraft bombed the train and emerged, but missed their target. The German command did not understand the unique situation of these forty kilometers of “cursed” front (held by the British) out of nearly seven hundred miles of front. One of her last messages announced the preparation of a massive German attack in early 1916 on Verdun . The information was relayed to the French commander who refused to believe it.

Arrested by the Germans on 20 October 1915 near Tournai, she was sentenced to death on 16 March 1916 in Brussels. Her sentence was forced labor for life. After being held for three years, she died on 27 September 1918 as a result of pleural abscesses poorly operated upon at St. Mary’s Hospital in Cologne.

Her body was repatriated on 21 February 1920. On 16 March 1920 a funeral was held in Lille in which she was posthumously awarded the Cross of the Legion of Honor, the Croix de guerre 1914-1918 with palm, the British Military Medal and was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire. Her body is buried in the cemetery of Saint-Amand-les-Eaux

What a bloody amazing woman. The events above are all in the novel albeit with a few minor date changes. I really enjoyed nearly all of it until the ending sadly. Major bits of that didn’t work for me so if you read it I’d like to know what you think. Still worth reading though, especially to find out more about women spies.

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Thanks for the feed back from the last post. Susan E’s comment struck a chord with me, “…put aside judgement and stop thinking of life as a glass half full or half empty-none of it matters if you don’t have a glass.”

She also asked for the Christmas cake recipe so I’ll post forthwith.

It is such a relief that many of my usual gift-giving friends have agreed not to do the present thing. I can’t think of anything I actually want or need, (except maybe a garlic crusher 🙂 ) and I’d much rather spend time with them than spend money for the sake of it.

I did muse on the plastic stuff we have accumulated for the kids in the refuges but in the  end I’m not sure it is about the present but more the symbolism of the present- just that someone chose something especially for them. I wish we were able to know each child’s name and be able to choose something I knew they really wanted. But for now, it has to be enough.

If you want a fun book to read at Christmas, have a go at Harvey Slumfenburger…

FG

“Charity”

I’ve been making a minor contribution to  a group called The Aunties. In Jackie’s words, this is what they do.

“Welcome to The Aunties – I’m Jackie. I’m the Aunty In Charge. If you’re curious about what I/we do, it is simply this. I am the interface between  a number of community organisations, and a group of people called The Aunties whose primary focus is to provide the material needs for the people who use the services of those organisations. The organisations/people we support are: Te Rōopu O Te Whānau Te Rangimariē O Tamaki Makaūrau; The NZ Prostitute’s Collective; the emergency housing team of social workers for the Salvation Army; a youth justice worker and her clients; and an expanding number of women in the community who are referred to me from these organisations, and also from women’s refuges, and the Family Harm programme.”

“Charity” is a funny old thing and it brought to mind this poem by Connie Bensley.

Charity

Trouble has done her good,
trouble has stopped her trivializing everything,
giggling too much,
glittering after other people’s husbands.

Trouble has made her think;
taken her down a peg,
knocked the stuffing out of her.
Trouble has toned down the vulgarity.

Under the bruises she looks more deserving:
someone you’d be glad to throw a rope to,
somewhere to send your old blouses
or those wormy little windfalls.

CONNIE BENSLEY (1984)

This is a complex poem and raises some interesting issues like, is it a charitable act to give away old blouses or wormy windfalls? Are people in need of “charity” some how less deserving and therefore have to be grateful for your old cast offs? Do people in difficult circumstances need “taking down a peg or two”?

Chief Aunty Jackie sniffs every garment and discards it, if it has so much as a whiff of mustiness. Anything stained? Chuck it.

I don’t want to speak on her behalf but my observation of Jackie’s view is that it must be given with love in your heart and therefore it will naturally be clean and in good condition. There’s some shit “donated” out there I have to say. If you just want to get rid of something put it in the rubbish. But also the crap is far, far, far, far outweighed by loads of clean, ironed, lovely things definitely given with love.

Judgement comes in too I guess. She’s got no money but she is smoking, takes drugs, has “too many” kids, stays with a violent man etc etc. in the end, her business is none of my business if I want to give someone a bit of support. I don’t know the back story, I don’t know what is happening for that person. I totally admit to having these sanctimonious thoughts from time to time but I’m trying not to.

Choosing gifts to donate? Makes us feel good to see all those presents wrapped up? For little kids that works well I think.  But…do we really know what that 14 year old teen wants? I think maybe at that age I would like a voucher to go out to the Boxing Day sales with my friends and choose something that is special to me. And yes that could be jeans with big rips in them because that happens to be cool right now.

Does anyone deserve less than the best we can do? And who decides what’s “best” for someone else?  Who knows when any of us might be “taken down a peg.”

There will inevitably be the stories where someone attended the Mission Christmas lunch and had “plenty of money” or “stole” two presents or…. do people say this to justify not giving anything?

Actually once it’s wrapped up, I don’t care what the receiver does with it. I hope they like it or find it useful, or are pampered a bit by it, or their children’s eyes light up but I don’t have any expectations that they need to be “grateful”.

Who knows what we do and why?

He Promised

He punched her in the face

At a party.

She fell,

The people grabbed him by the arms,

He was reeling

 

Later they returned together,

Arms around each other.

She was smiling happily.

She was pregnant, and he’d promised

To marry her.

 

by Anna Swir 

 

That all sounds a bit grim so here’s some Christmas cheer.

I baked a Christmas cake today and the whole house smells all cinnamon and brandy.

My favourite angel has the perfect grin. (I don’t tell the others she is my favorite though.) I bought her in The Netherlands from a  “disability ” workshop. They only used the creator’s first name and I’ve always wondered why. Because you are disabled you just get a first name? I don’t get that. A friend asked me how I attach them. i used the Commando clear mini hooks that theoretically pull off cleanly afterwards.

Have a good week. FG

I’ve got the power (not)

The Power Cut

So accustomed am I to having everything on tap that when the unscheduled power cut happened tonight I knew I couldn’t cook dinner so I thought I’d sit down and watch a bit of telly until it came back on…I know, call me stupid.

I’m now bathed in a wonderful soft candlelight and sadly there is no one to admire the soft glow I imagine my skin has in this light. It has also been a beautiful sunset, the sky bathed in reds and golds.

My phone battery is nearly dead as is this computer battery. Am I ready for an emergency? Heck no. Well I do have emergency chocolate. I hve also discovered I can’t touch typr  in the dark in quite the way I thoughy.

I am thinking of the people in Christchurch during and after the earthquakes and while it is a novelty for me for an hour or so, it was a major obstacle for them.

The power has just whooshed on again giving me quite a fright and I feel a bit out of sorts. While I was sitting here in the semi darkness, I was unable to use any distractions so there was just me and my thoughts and the candles really did look lovely.  Now FB is running hot and I can binge watch the TV again. But I don’t really want to…

Maybe Waldon et al were on to something.

There are moments when all anxiety and stated toil are becalmed in the infinite leisure and repose of nature. Henry David Thoreau

Although I’m sure I read somewhere that he went to his mother’s for dinner quite a lot but that could just be an idle rumour. 

Although it is nice to make a cup of tea and put the Christmas lights on. I know, I know, it is still November but it was book club last night and I was feeling a bit yuletide yahooey.

On the topic of reposing in nature I wrote this poem while sitting with a view of the sea at New Plymouth recently.

View of the Sea 

There is so much interference with my view of the sea.

A book to be read

Powerlines and street lights.

A cup of tea.

There’s a white butterfly scavenging for cabbages and a car horn.

All interfering with my view of the sea.

A ship on the horizon, a flax bush, and seabirds,

The sun is shining now,  a pohutakawa is flowering, the first Christmas one,

and a woman in a blue walking  jacket.

Interference all.

Friends too.

Interfering with my view of the sea.

Hey ho, a rough draft but you get my drift. I’ll move to a rustic cabin in the woods and then realise there’s book club, the film festival, that nice cafe, a Christmas party, and I’ll find I can’t stand myself.

PS we neighbours got together for a film night recently. Here’s a question. When did Swiss women gain the right to vote???  1920? 1945? 1962? nope- it was 1971

“Die göttliche Ordnung”, written and directed by Petra Volpe follows fictional characters in the build-up to the national referendum in 1971, where a majority of Swiss men finally voted in favour of granting women the vote. Set in an unspecified and conservative corner of eastern Switzerland, the title (meaning “the divine order”) tilts ironically at ideas of men and women’s traditional roles.

When one of the main female leads wants to get a job, her husband tells her, quite rightly:

Now let’s not get carried away, but equal pay would be quite enlightened, wouldn’t it? We don’t want young women saying, “What do you mean that in 2017 women still didn’t receive equal pay??”

Just a thought. FG

You know you are getting old when…

you go to the museum in New Plymouth, Puke Ariki and see all the stuff you had at home as a child. At first I thought maybe they were just vacuuming the displays…

Who didn’t have one of these in their flat?

Then there were the trips to the dental nurse, what a complex range of emotions seeing the dental chair and the old treadle drill!  So many sights, feelings and smells. The terror, yes, the waiting room, muffled sounds of misery, the meths smell, the steriliser steaming and clanking away, but also the delight at the end when the nurse made me a little cotton tubular snowman made with dental floss and a black marking pen for the eyes. It was a badge of honour to take back to show you survived and were “good”. I still am averse to the dentist and still want a cotton snowman at the end…

The memories come flooding back just looking at the red leather seat and the spit bowl. My dental nurse looked quite a lot like Nana Mouskouri, although it may have just been the intimidating thick black glasses.

The treadle drill.
I feel as though I remember this too, especially that red rubber air squishing thing. Maybe they were standard issue.

If you need a laugh I think this Michael McIntyre skit about going to the dentist will do the trick.

In the next booth at the museum were the school uniforms. I guess this is New Plymouth Girls’ but Otago Girls High School was much the same. What a fuss there was about wearing the hat. I was caught downtown without my panama hat and was marched up the very steep street in Moray Place by Miss Upchurch and I had to return to assembly the next day to show that I had embroidered my name in it. (Thanks Mum)

Uniform rules were made to be broken and ranged from hoisting the gym frock up as short as possible by using the girdle to hold it up, to wearing “witches’ britches” underneath to reveal a fetching row of lace underneath. There were always endless discussions about hair length as  well. Nothing much has changed. Girls are still accused of “distracting ” boys just like the young woman in the orphanage in that wonderful but awful film, The Magdalene Sisters. Apparently she was too beautiful to be out in the world so was sent to the laundry in the local convent  so she couldn’t be a temptress.

Those are ribbons and tiny pigtails as my hair was deemed too long to wear out…

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I often imagine that uniforms were designed by twisted old bats to make young women look as hideous as possible. Where else in this modern age would girls be made to wear ghastly full-length tartan skirts?? And what was the hair length thing about? Envy of young lovely tresses perhaps?

Why do air hostesses have to wear a silly hat? Just asking….

Witches britches

The biggest gasp of shock, fear and definitely admiration was reserved for the model prefect who, in hushed whispers, “was pregnant”. After all, she had actually done “it”.

The good old days? Nah, not so much. I have always enjoyed teaching Fleur Adcock’s wonderful poem about uniforms and uniformity.

The latest Listener has an interesting article about the  surprising changes in attitude in the iGen teens.

Apparently, “iGen is distinct from every other previous generation in how they spend their time, how they behave and their attitudes towards religion, sexuality and politics.” 

One line made my heart lift, ” …they have no patience for inequality based on gender, race or sexual orientation”.  That certainly seems to be the case with my son’s circle of friends. They also seem more interested in politics and the world around them and are not particularly interested in material wealth. They keep in touch with the news though pod casts, TED talks etc. and therefore have access to a huge range of opinions and ideas.

What I’m Reading.

I have just finished Wichtel’s book and found it fascinating if grief stricken. I have had an obsession, I suppose, about the holocaust from an early age. I read Five Chimneys, The Silver Sword, Anne Frank’s Diary and others from an about 10 years of age and had recurring nightmares long after.

While Wichtel’ book is mainly about after the war and the miraculous “survival” of her father, it also drives home that the sufferings of the war linger long after and can run through the later generations.

One of the most chilling sentences in the book was when a Nazi soldier was interviewed after the war about the practice of bashing babies’ heads in against the side of the trucks. “It was just cargo,” he said, “just cargo”.

My nephews are both in the baby-making stage of their lives, precious, precious cargo. I can only knit soft, warm cashmere and hope their lives will be filled with love.

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Go the All Whites in about an hour. FG

The Country Idyll?

As many of you know, I’m a real estate junkie, constantly checking out every area of the country for a possible change in lifestyle. I never learn. My first house cost 45K and was in the tiny bend in the road 35 kms out of Christchurch called Irwell. I knew the area as I had started my teaching career at Southbridge District High School. However, I bought the Blacksmith’s Corner section while I was HOD English at Cashmere High School and doing my Masters part-time.

I fantasied endlessly about a potager garden, herbs flourishing, fruit trees heavy with bounty, and me wearing a fetching apron making home made bread.

Image result for perfect potager
NOT my garden

In reality, I was working all day and most evenings and then driving home on country roads and falling into bed and then getting up and driving back to town. I developed terrible hayfever and sometimes shut all my doors and lay on my bed with a pillow over my head as my neighbour across the road enjoyed Neil Diamond at full strength while working outside by putting enormous speakers on his veranda.

I did however, love my little, simple box house designed by Trevor Ibbetson, a dear friend who died far too early. I also loved the view of the Southern Alps.

It was in the Muldoon era and interest rates were frozen at 22%. After that foray into the countryside I went for houses right in town and built two sets of two townhouses over a few years.

Sam and I had another flirt with the countryside when I had a stint in Akaroa on a secondment. 18 months was enough of small town living and i was happy to go home to the city. It was after that that I was still restless and we went to France and then Auckland.

And now… I still hanker after the romantic countryside thing, even though I know it isn’t really real. I found myself thinking about this place near Geraldine as my next option… I know its crazy. I know if I was going to write  novel I would have done it by now but..

Fairlieproperty slider image

https://www.ljhooker.co.nz/3ESGGX/fairlie

Even though it looks old it was built in 2016 and has the perfect BnB option in the garden. I’m not sure where the nearest film festival is though. Still it would allow me to have three months in France each year.

I was reading a blog that I really like called Brain Pickings by Maria Popova and this week she refers to Walt Whitman and the wisdom of trees. She quotes Hermann Hesse, “When we have learned how to listen to treesthen the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy.”

I still consume, buy, worry, get caught up in traffic and work politics and yet I think I should have moved on from all this crap so I see a house in the middle of nowhere and think, maybe I could do that and be still. And then I think, nah, I’d be lonely and scared at night. And then I go looking for a sugar fix in the cupboard.

I’m pretty sure I could give up all work though and not be bored….

Illustration by Maurice Sendak from Open House for Butterflies by Ruth Krauss. Also form Brain Pickings. Well worth reading the whole article.
I also listened to a story the other day called The White Horse. It is a Chinese folk tale about not judging a situation. I, of course aspire to that but never manage it. But you might. 

My friend has been told of three friends this week who have been diagnosed with cancer.

Enjoy the moment if possible and let me know if you fancy accompanying me to Fairlie/Geraldine….FG

Len Lye in the sky.

Food and France-Petit Louis

When I was living in France over 14 years ago, Petit Louis’ was the place to go for a birthday or when visitors came. Not that it was expensive but it was a bit of a drive up to the Plateau de Sault. I lived in France only over the cold months from January to July so we always ate inside. When I arrived this year in late Spring I was keen to visit again but wasn’t sure that Petit Louis was even alive as he was talking about retiring many years earlier.

However, to my delight he was still very sprightly and his restaurant was as busy as ever. All the charcuterie is made on his farm and the produce is all sourced locally. We went on a lovely sunny day and sat outside in the busy garden for lunch.

Petit Louis always does his party trick of pouring the wine onto his forehead and letting it run neatly into his mouth without spilling a drop. He then offers this same trick to his guests. Woe-betide you if you close your mouth as you will be splattered with red wine.

When everyone is seated and the aperitif is over, a huge bowl of farmhouse pate in an earthenware bowl is unceremoniously put on the table. This is followed by an array of charcuterie all from the farm,  accompanied by unlabeled bottles of red wine and a bowl of wickedness – duck fat bits.

The mains tend to be duck, duck or duck in a variety of forms. Suffice to say the cheese is divine. Dessert is a crepe with homemade fig compote with cream.

A digestif is a definite requirement. For me this is bliss, a lovely homemade meal, sunshine, good friends and great wine. FG

 

Eating my way around Spain and France

We started our journey in Madrid. Day one, tired and jet-lagged I came upon churros for breakfast, perfect!

Spain is of course, famous for its tapas and we managed to sample quite a few.

Every place where you rest your weary legs for a drink, you always get free olives or other small tapas.

and there is often a tasty selection for “after”.

I imagined eating lots of oranges in Valencia but apparently they are not sweet and tasty but they still look and smell good.

I didn’t eat a standout meal in Spain but maybe it was because I was on the tourist beat. I did, however, meet a friendly foodie on the bus to San Sebastien.  He had flown to Bilbao from Barcelona and then was beside me on the bus to San Sebastien. He was very helpful and told me all about his blog. I now follow Daniel on Instagram and his photos are sumptuous and the food looks delicious.

You can see how well-known as a food writer he is on his blog site.

http://danielarbos.com

© Daniel Arbós

If you want to know where the five best places for coffee in Paris are, just consult his website. I wish I had taken the time to find one standout restaurant to go to, but still we had a pretty good time eating out every day in some unique and beautiful cafes.

We crossed the border into the Pyrenees and I immediately felt at home.  Part of the eating delight is the environment and we found the most exquisite setting for dinner right in the village square beside a very old church in the most glorious balmy temperatures.

When we reached my beloved France we returned to the little hamlet I lived in lived in with Sam 15 years ago. It was strange but lovely to visit Sam’s school and to visit dear friends who own a gite in Puivert in the Pyrenees. Each evening in the lovely late Spring weather we sat out with their guests in the garden and had dinner. Francoise is a wonderful cook as you can see below:

Just an everyday lunch….

It is called the Gite des Marionettes because they make beautiful handheld puppets.

These are the cheeses they eat every night, this is not a special occasion shot, so yummy.
Every night is special, starting with an aperitif and ending with a digestif.

Sharing a meal with a stranger immediately loosens the tongues even if those tongues are foreign and we always managed to make ourselves understood.

I am saving the trip to Petit Louis for another day as for me, it was a pilgrimage.

I don’t think  Michelle and Francoise would approve of my chocolate,liquorice log for dessert tonight.

FG