We live on a farm where there are plenty of free-range chickens, some of which wander into our garden. This is fine with us, especially if they lay us some eggs, which they do from time to time, and stay out of the vege garden. Today one of the hens was out on the road with her four little bundles of fluff. They were feasting off insects, oblivious to the danger from cars and trucks. It seems like a metaphor for those of us who rushed into the supermarkets as soon as the lock-down was announced and bought enough groceries in one day to feed 10 million New Zealanders, oblivious of the official announcements that the supermarkets will remain open and the food supply will be maintained. We need to be smarter than that! We have at least four weeks of lock-down ahead so we’ll need to pace ourselves and use our common sense. I’m happy to report that the hen and her chicks survived (by wandering back into the paddock beside our house) and so will we. Stay home and stay safe
For months we’ve relied on our indoor plants for greenery. It hasn’t rained properly for weeks and outside plants, trees and fields are dry and brown. But yesterday and today it has rained off and on continually and one can almost watch the paddocks going green. How welcome this is when one is isolated – all New Zealanders are now working from home unless they are in an essential business. All our indoor plants have new green shoots, which seems like a welcome act of optimism, and helps counter the grey skies and feelings of impending doom. Stay safe everyone and be kind to yourselves and others.
Readers of this blog will know that Raglan is our favourite place in New Zealand. At present we live just 40 minutes away and can visit often. We also love the coconut yoghurt (http://raglancoconutyoghurt.co.nz/) that is made there. In this country dominated by dairy farming, it was difficult for people to access non-dairy yoghurt and this product fills that gap. We eat it most mornings with our fruit and muesli and it is delicious! In addition, it comes in glass jars from which the labels are easily removed. You can then wash out the jar, take it to your favourite refillery and use it for whatever dry goods you need. In the photo above I’ve used the jar for shredded coconut – very appropriate.
… has always been one of my favourite things. Here I am on a beach in Awhitu with its characteristic black volcanic sand. Just over six weeks ago, I was walking on a Cronulla beach when I fell and hit my right shoulder on a rock, fracturing the humerus in the process. It’s amazing how one wrong step taken in a split second can have such far-reaching implications. Having one’s right arm immobilised in a sling means that it’s very difficult to wash and dress oneself and washing one’s hair is impossible. I can feed myself provided someone else gets the food to the table for me and gives me a spoon to use in my far-from-dexterous left hand. I’ve discovered that I can load and unload the dishwasher with said left hand and wield the vacuum cleaner, though the corners remain dusty. The worst aspect of my present day-to-day life is that I am unable to lie down and have to sleep in a reclining chair. However, the excellent medical care that I have received both in Australia and at home, the wonderful help from Jim and our daughters, the good wishes from family and friends mitigate all the pain and frustration. And I am slowly getting better and look forward to starting physiotherapy at the end of the week.
2017 has been a surprising year. We came to Auckland for Christmas and it turns out I’ll be staying all year. I was offered a fixed-term job till 15 December, which I have now begun. But I am here without any of the three people I love the most and that feels strange. Both our daughters moved away from Auckland in January, to Sydney and Dargaville respectively, to take up new jobs. Jim returned to Ipoh early in January and he is slogging away, without me to help on the home front. Separately we’re all having new experiences, which it will be wonderful to share when we’re all together again.
Malaysians are not very good at queuing. I have been at a counter when someone else comes up beside me and asks the assistant a question. The assistant then stops helping me and attends to them. When I have remonstrated with the pusher-in or the assistant, they look at me blankly because this is usual practice here. However, if you go into the post office, a bank or a mobile phone store, you have to take a number (like the one in the photo above) from the little machine at the door and wait your turn. At any time of the day any of these places will have scores of people sitting around waiting for their number to be called. Once when I was waiting endlessly at the bank, I asked one of the assistants how long the average wait was and she pretended not to understand me though her English was faultless. Worse than all this though is that you cannot make a doctor’s appointment. Instead you arrive when the rooms open and register at the desk. You may have to wait all morning to see the doctor. I have all the time in the world so I am not sure why this practice irks me so much. I think it’s because it’s so inefficient and unproductive.
Feeling sick after watching Trump accepting his win yesterday, I went out and bought flowers. I arranged them in my lovely gold Burslem vase, put them on the coffee table, poured myself a glass of Oyster Bay sauvignon blanc and watched Sense and Sensibility on DVD. Did it make me feel better? Not really in the face of what feels like an unmitigated disaster for the US and the world. To quote Garrison Keillor I’m going to spend the next four years “raising heirloom tomatoes, meditating, reading Jane Austen, traveling around the country, tasting artisan beers” or a version of that.
In a witty follow-on from the saturation coverage by the media of All Black Aaron Smith’s antics in a Christchurch airport toilet, the Travel Wires column in the New Zealand Herald‘s travel supplement (11 October 2016) was devoted to “toilet talks” – snippets about toilets at airports around New Zealand. What amused me most though was Allan’s comment on “the foul toilets at Kuala Lumpur airport – unclean, unacceptable, unusable”. If he thinks those toilets are bad, he should see some I’ve come across in my travels in Malaysia! Part of the problem is that people use hoses instead of toilet paper, which means that the floors are flooded with stinking water. These hoses are ubiquitous – we even have them in the bathrooms in our flat in Ipoh (see pic), not that we ever use them. I have, however, gone in after a visiting contractor has used the bathroom to be greeted by pools of water. When I’m cleaning it up, I have to think about something else in order not to dwell on the foulness of the task! Using public toilets in Malaysia requires a strong stomach or the ability to hold one’s breath for a long time.
At our favourite Thai restaurant in New Zealand our delicious food was always served on beautiful light green dishes. When I asked the staff where I could buy similar china they just smiled. I guessed they had brought it with them from Thailand. So you can imagine my delight when we found the Siam Celadon shop in Chiang Mai. It is in a beautiful 19th century house, which is built around this attractive courtyard. The shop at the front is filled with green and blue pottery made using ancient Chinese techniques, which involve a transparent glaze that sometimes leaves the pieces covered in tiny cracks. At the back is the Raming teahouse, where we had lunch served on Siam Celadon china, and a lovely walled garden decorated with seconds (see pics below). For a china collector like me it was the perfect way to spend the day.
I was browsing in an antique shop in Penang and saw a stack of these bowls. The pleasant and informative shop assistant told me they were given to individual tin miners for their rice ration. Each had a different pattern and many of them were etched with the name of the owner on the inside. The Kinta Valley in Perak (the state in which we live) was the centre of the Malayan tin mining industry from the end of the 19th century.‘Perak’ means ‘silver’ so it is possible that the area was named after the silvery colour of the tin. I bought this particular bowl because I liked the decoration, it has a faint mark on the inside signifying whose bowl it was and we live close to the area where the tin miner who used the bowl may have worked. It is a lovely object. Today’s workers in Perak eat their lunches out of polystyrene containers, which you then see lying in piles of litter wherever you go. That doesn’t seem like progress to me!