Strawberries

Strawberries

There is a strawberry and blueberry farm close to where we live. During the short summer season we go down there every couple of days to buy some of their delicious fruit. We try to get our fill before the season ends and never tire of a breakfast bowl of red and blue fruit or a pink smoothie. I was at the farm gate this morning and noticed a blackboard sign beside the racks of fruit. It informed customers that the farm would not be taking advance orders over the holidays as they have done in past years. The reason for this was the abuse suffered by the farm staff from customers who were not able to place large Christmas orders due to the shortage of fruit. My pleasure at picking up my punnets of fruit was soured by this news. During the season of joy and goodwill to all, there are some who spoil it for everyone by ranting at hard-working berry pickers! Shame on them! Fred Rogers, who is played by Tom Hanks in a new movie called A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood, said “There are three ways to ultimate success: The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind.” I hope 2020 will be a kinder year for all of us.

The Magic Flute

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I haven’t posted anything on my blog for a long time, mostly because we’ve returned to New Zealand and taken up our old lives and routines. It seemed that there was nothing that we hadn’t experienced before and hence nothing remarkable to blog about. But that changed over the weekend when we enjoyed a performance of Mozart’s The Magic Flute, which was part of the 2019 Auckland arts festival. This was the production from the Komische Oper Berlin co-directed by Barrie Kosky and Suzanne Andrade (British theatre group 1927) with animation by Paul Barritt. In addition to Mozart’s famous music ably played by the Auckland Philharmonia, the performance was remarkable for some fine singing and amazing animation instead of sets. Some of the animation was reminiscent of silent movies – warnings to Tamino and Papageno during their trial of silence, for example, were projected in huge words complete with exclamation points. The animation was inventive and amusing, resulting in laughter from the audience at times. It suited the fantastical plot of this opera though I found it distracting at times and I closed my eyes to concentrate on the singing. I also didn’t take to the Queen of the Night as a giant spider! But overall, it was a wonderful experience and the the applause at the final curtain was long and loud.

Waitangi weather

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Today is Waitangi Day, New Zealand’s national day and Aucklanders celebrated in magnificent summer weather. The bays along the waterfront were packed with picnickers, swimmers, paddle-boarders and kayakers. I wandered along Tamaki drive enjoying the views of the sparkling water and people watching. It was lovely to meet up with friends. I even had an ice-cream cone! A perfect summer’s day.

Summer in New Zealand

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The pohutukawa are in bloom and the sky is bright blue. The days are cool and pleasant. We celebrated Christmas and New Year in Auckland with our girls and our family. We’ve had a couple of splendid beach days and some relaxation. But now it is full steam ahead helping our daughters move to Sydney and Dargaville (two hours north of Auckland) respectively where they are starting new jobs in January. It will be sad for us to think that they are no longer living in the same city but we are thrilled that they are moving on to the next phase of their lives. We still have a few days together in Auckland and intend to enjoy them fully.

Jingle bells

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I’ve heard just about every version of this ubiquitous Christmas jingle after three days in KL, where every shop is cashing in on this Christian festival. It always seems strange to me that in Malaysia, where over 60% of people are Muslim and not even 10% are Christian, Christmas music and decorations are so prevalent. I snapped this photo from upstairs in the Mid Valley mall. It was teeming with people, many of whom were taking selfies in front of the elaborate decorations. It seemed ironic that that particular day was Maulidur Rasul (Prophet Muhammad’s birthday).

KLCC

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The Petronas Towers at KLCC are the emblem of Malaysia for many international and local visitors. There are hundreds of people at KLCC at any one time. It felt like there were thousands there yesterday afternoon when we arrived for the philharmonic concert in the splendid concert hall at the base of the towers. It was a dazzling programme with works by Tchaikovsky, Dukas, Rimsky-Korsakov and Stravinsky. The orchestra filled the stage and included two harps, an expanded percussion section and impressive woodwind and brass sections. But the hall was not nearly full and going out into the throng in the Suria mall afterwards, I felt it was a pity they hadn’t been there to experience it. Hundreds of people were enjoying the piped Christmas music, taking selfies in front of the cut-outs of Santa and his reindeer and shopping in the numerous designer stores that line the mall. Good on them but I think we had the more enjoyable experience.

Food for Deepavali

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We shared several Deepavali meals with friends and colleagues over the weekend. They couldn’t have been more hospitable and welcoming. And the deliciousness and quantity of the food was overwhelming. The amount of planning and sheer hard work that goes into the preparation of celebratory feasts like this is mind-boggling and the generosity of our friends here in Ipoh is amazing. We came home with containers full of food and will be continuing to enjoy Deepavali food for days to  come

Perfect Penang day

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Last Wednesday was a public holiday in Malaysia (it was Merdeka (independence) day and we’ve now been here for three of these holidays!) so we decided to spend the day in Penang. We left Ipoh early and got to the China House cafe in George Town in time for morning tea. We wandered around the Armenian Street part of the old town before lunch at the quiet Cafe 55 in Lorong Stewart, where we enjoyed an interesting conversation with our Filipina waitress. By then the sun was high and we retreated to the cool of our lovely room at 23 Love Lane, a beautifully restored boutique hotel (http://www.23lovelane.com/). After a rest under the whirring ceiling fan, we walked along the waterfront and ended up at the Eastern & Oriental Hotel where we indulged in an early cocktail. A walk back to the hotel in the rain, detouring to explore some of the lanes in the area, gave us an appetite for some dinner, which we had at our favourite Italian restaurant Via Pre. After a good sleep and a quick breakfast, we were on the road south and back Ipoh in time for the day’s work.

Happy Valentine’s Day

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Valentine’s Day breakfast with my daughters on a beautiful summer’s morning in Auckland – possibly the best way to spend the day despite being thousands of miles away from my valentine. Delicious pancakes with plums, raspberries and almond slivers served on Granny’s china in the garden.

Home for the summer

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Pohutukawa, black beach sand, waves breaking off the point, lamb on the barbecue, sauvignon blanc in the fridge. We are going home for the summer! After completing our second year in Ipoh, we’re ready for a Kiwi Christmas and spending time with our girls, our family and our friends. Only two more sleeps!