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Apr 20 2012

Eating our way through Argentina

Autumn brings on the munchies as the body tries to add a layer for winter. I was flicking through the Argentina 2009 photos the other day and realised how often we photographed our food before we ate it. Well, more likely I did, since it was probably nothing out of the ordinary for Elena.

I had a sudden craving for one of these last night: sweetcorn empanadas, or corn husk wrapped around creamed corn and cheese and steamed. Comfort food.

In Valeria del Mar on the Atlantic coast, we pushed our work aside for lunch. With a little wine for the stomach’s sake.

Hongos harvested from under the pine trees were made into . . .

… risotto and ratatouille that were tasty and  just the tiniest bit slippery.

On buses, we ate miniature cracker biscuits out of packets that matched our clothing.

Pink stuff.

In cafes, the morning medialuna with coffee.

Out for dinner: varieties of pasta.

In Ushuaia, king crab from the Beagle Channel.

In the Humahuaca Valley, quinoa omelette.

Back in Jujuy, trout. Fresh.

And in the country where beef is king of the table and the barbecue holds pride of place in the garden, the opportunity to try a some kind of gland and a blood ball (aka black pudding).

You may have met the pastelitas already. The neighbour made them and we ate them still warm.

Okay, we’re full now.

 But you can find a little more of Elena here.


Apr 9 2012

A watery moment

Alas, this water sculpture has none of the luminosity and little of the beauty of the photo I was drawing from — except that it’s an utterly pleasing composition — but there’s a treat in store for you by photographer Heinz Meier.

It’s been a lovely, Indian summer, Easter. We walked the beaches and the dog whose biopsy results this week seem to indicate that fifteen or a little under will be her life span. Meanwhile, she’s still perky and bright, but needing to wear a coat of my devising to stop her gnawing at irritated skin.

The second batch of hot cross buns I made was worth eating.

We attended a Tenebrae service on Friday night — readings from the gospel of John, exquisite part singing, and candles extinguished one by one — and greeted the dawn on Sunday.

I’m reading Nicholas Nickleby, very slowly; NN’s altercations with Squeerses have marked my fallings-asleep several nights running.

There are two Peasgood Nonsuch apples left dangling on the extremity of one branch, and an entire crop of raspberries (the first ever) holding their breath at the very ends of their long wands, hoping the warm weather will hold long enough for them to plump and redden. Meanwhile, today there was A Loganberry.


Mar 25 2012

Sunday

Before the thunder storm we went to the beach. It was agonisingly beautiful, as ever. The waves were backlit so you could see shreds of seaweed suspended in green before they broke. Since our last visit, the sea had rearranged the sand and all but the most stalwart rocks. Polly was in heaven, which we were glad about since she’s having an operation this week and afterwards will doubtless take to her bed for a few days, quivering with well-earned hypochondria.

 

Someone should have set up a video camera beside one of the deep little pools that had formed in the lee of the rocks. Polly wasn’t the only dog we saw that expected to go flying through knee-deep water.

 

 


Mar 11 2012

Picnic

I drove three hours north and my three younger siblings drove south for two. They had come from the middle east and the north island and the garden city.

The sun shone. We lunched by the Waihi River.

It couldn’t have been nicer. C laid out the lunch; B gathered firewood; K produced goats’ cheese and fudge; I poured the tea. C had thought to bring a knife. B had thought to bring a proper (not an iphone) camera.

K had thought to bring walking shoes. I had thought to bring sunscreen, which we all applied since none of us had thought to bring a hat. We walked upriver, gazing at the blue hills — past the 1000 sheep and the 500,000 bees, under the trees, over the poop, past the one sheep stung on the nose by one bee and running in circles, through the gully and back — thinking all along, how wonderful to set up camp here till the end of summer.

But we didn’t.

We said goodbye. Until next time.


Mar 8 2012

Come to Puna

Ascend with me a minute to 4000 metres, and whizz across the Andes to  the intersection of Bolivia, Chile and (for our purposes) Argentina: see a vast grassland; terracotta mountains on a Himalayan scale; shimmering salt flats pierced by emerald ponds; tiny adobe hamlets; vicunas, flamingos, vultures and perhaps even a puma. You can be one of the 100 tourists who make it up here this year. This is Puna. (That link is from a travel writer; this one is from Wiki.)

Niños jugando en Santuario de Tres Pozos, Arlen Buchara 2009

My friend Elena Bossi has edited a book called PUNA, that she’s giving away in PDF format. She lives in Jujuy in the north of Argentina, and recently tackled the day-and-a-half drive from Salta into the high Andes, where locals had been interviewed about life in this high and spare environment. Elena edited the interviews to bring alive the voices, mostly of farmers and harvesters of salt.  She’s included in the book folk tales, poems and literary offerings from the region ‘to make a universal idea of the souls of the people’.  The photos are stunning, too.

Photo: Michele Giacomelli, Valtellina, Italy

There’s only one drawback for the fools among us who haven’t taken their Spanish studies seriously enough: it hasn’t been translated into English. Not yet. But I know it will have been beautifully written.

Anyway, if you read Spanish, or know someone who does, help yourself here. You’re in for a treat and I’m envious. Elena would like to see this book ‘diffused’ (I love her wonderfully apt English) so please consider posting it on your own blog, especially if you have a Spanish readership.

And of course if you’d like to translate PUNA, that’d be fantastic. I’d put the English version on Rosa Mira Books, perhaps not for free, but for a small sum so I could reimburse the translator in due course.

 

 

 


Mar 6 2012

Take your pick


Feb 13 2012

Pursued

Driving back to Dunedin on Sunday afternoon with music playing in one ear (the pup chewed the other ear’s phone, and the car’s radio speakers stopped working years ago) and my thoughts who-knows-where, I noticed a car running up behind me, with a red and a yellow light flashing on its front.  I looked for police markings or a top-light but there was neither. Who was this prankster trying to intimidate me?

I held my course as I realised what a clever ploy it was, to trick a woman on her own into pulling over on a wide and lonely stretch of road . . . a toy pistol, a threat, and she’d probably hand over her wallet in a flash. I looked at the oncoming traffic. Would any of it stop if I pulled over and jumped out, waving my arms?

At the same time as I finally heard the wee-woo, I saw the driver pointing at the verge. I pulled over and he did too.

For a moment I considered telling the handsome young police officer that I was on my way home from a funeral (true) — but I was feeling far from glum after a rich and happy time with whanau. I suppose I was mildly relieved to see him, too, even if he was telling me off for ignoring him and his siren for so long as I sailed along at 113 kph.

I told him off for creeping me out in his bright green, unmarked car.

I accepted the fine and 20 demerit points without a murmur.

My first-ever speeding ticket.


Feb 6 2012

Angsty cat

Clouds stream overhead from north-east to south-west, dissolving and morphing as they go.

Lilies in the tub outside the window have begun to brown and curl and drop their skirts.

The peasgood nonsuch apples cling to their branches and fatten, and silver bean-slivers emerge from fiery flower sheaths.

Clouds, lilies, beans and apples do what they do, no questions asked.

Only humans wonder whether what they’re doing makes any sense. Sometimes, when I’m feeling more than usually sense-less, I come back to what God is reputed in the book of Exodus to have said when Moses asked for his identity: ‘I am that I am’. Another rendering of ‘ehweh‘ is: ‘I shall become who I am becoming.’ And if it’s good enough for God . . .

Perhaps it doesn’t matter whether I choose this course of action or that. Is it possible that, in the way of apples, beans and clouds, the human organism goes inexorably on, growing and auto-correcting until it resembles a well formed . . . human being?

Settle down, puss.

 


Jan 31 2012

How to make concrete

Assemble your tools and an able assistant.

Dampen the area to be covered, which preferably includes a crack.

Tip most of the cement into the barrow. Keep some in the bag in case — as with icing — you make the mixture too sloppy.

Gloves are optional. I like drawing them.

Pour water by cupfuls into the cement, stirring as you go with a spade and, if you like, a piece of kindling.

To test for consistency, fill a cup with the mixture then invert and empty it, as you do a sand castle. The slurry should slump to half its original height. Add more cement or water accordingly.

Seize the ready moment and tip the mixture into the corner.

Pounce on it with your trowel. Shape and smooth the concrete into place. Admire its gleaming surface.

Hunt around the house for beads and buttons.

Sit in the sun beside the concrete puddle and idly stick them in. When your pattern is complete, poke the beads down a little harder. Let them be gripped.


Jan 27 2012

Eat or be eaten

It rained hard last night. We noticed the damp patch in the ceiling above the table but it was dark outside and the roof space too cramped for entry or even torchlight. This morning I realised I’d had a lucky escape. The laptop is still functioning. R. has been up on the roof. He’s bought and used a pair of tin-cutters. The builder has been summonsed

FB message of the morning: ‘Eat the day or it will eat you.’ I think it’s fair to say we ate each other. Here’s my small mouthful:

Starting with the blue thing and moving clockwise: that’s a recycling bin, bought this morning from the city council office, to replace the one we ran over several years ago (it worked but it was wonky). Also a roll of 100 city council doggy-doo bags, reputedly biodegradable (but not before you’ve carried them home in your hot little hand). I do think that wrapping dogshit in any kind of plastic is a retrograde step: it’ll compost quickly if flicked into the green belt or under a hedge. However, sometimes bagging’s the only way to go.

I collected 100 beautiful business cards (from Ezyprint Solutions) for Michael to hand out as the author of Road Markings. I sewed them into 4 cloth pockets in order to make the package flat enough for ‘letter rate’, and posted them off to the USA in a recycled envelope bearing its original potato-cut hearts (how to alarm an author).

While out and about I bought an article not shown here for someone about to turn a year older than me. In the same shop I indulged  in another fine-nibbed pen, used for the above. Then I went to fill up the petrol tank. This cost exactly the same as 100 full-colour, two-sided business cards.

A. was here so we sat one each end of the table to do our drawing and colouring. He was making a vivid recruitment poster for a new Dunedin-chapter Harry Potter Club. I was trying to make eggs ovoid.

We ate egg and chive sandwiches for lunch then, for our sins, J. had to make a chocolate cake without eggs. It turned out moist, dark and flat as a pizza base. Good though. Outside the sun shone on Peasgood Nonsuch and trumpeting lily alike.

E. and Z. joined us all for  cake and summer tales. We laughed and cried a little because life is both hard and good and you have to chew it up as best you can.

 

 


Jan 23 2012

The revised atlas

Our PM John Key referred to New Zealand on the radio today as a cork bobbing on the ocean, which I think shows a lack of imagination.

Polly went out on the smorgasbord tonight. She sneaked off and chomped her way around the neighbourhood bins and compost heaps. Tonight she’s stunned, rotund, and leaking queasy gases.


Jan 16 2012

Watching 2012

The new year is underway. We have little idea what it will hold. We have hopes and qualms, loose plans and quiet intentions. We will all be watching what unfolds and will play our part accordingly.

Tonight I made tom kha pad thai yum.

I heard Aung San Suu Kyi answer questions from a class of American students. I admired her dignity, intelligence, and radiance of being.  At last in Burma, democracy looks possible again: that precious blend (to quote The Lady) of freedom and security.


Jan 7 2012

Maman, squeeze me a lemon

 

 

 

 


Dec 19 2011

2011: words failed me, but the cutlery was staunch.


Dec 18 2011

Nice work if you can get it

Perhaps in order to prevent collisions with its plate glass windows, the local swimming pool has near-life-sized transfers on the glass, of young swimmers frolicking. This morning, we watched the window cleaner charge his squeegee and make the first bold sweeps.

I walked into plate glass once. We’d just finished walking the Milford Track and I went to soothe my aching feet in the bathroom of the tourist information centre at Milford Sound.  Coming back out, I stared at the sea and mountains straight ahead and smack. This might have been the cause of my otherwise unexplained deviated nasal septum. They should stick dolphins on the windows, or something that trampers crave and would never walk right through, like a bowl of fruit salad.


Dec 11 2011

Walking home from the pool

 


Dec 5 2011

Monday’s shoes

 

Now, I’d better get on with some work.


Nov 30 2011

Evening miscellany

 


Nov 27 2011

Things don’t always turn out the way we mean them to

I was poking around the sunny vege garden on Friday when I noticed I wasn’t alone. A  black rat was also sauntering and sampling, grasping and nibbling on salad greens.

In fright, I leaped into the nearest room and snatched the cat from the bed. She sat where I planted her on the flagstone, dazed and befuddled and ten inches from the rat, who carried on munching. Cat stared blindly at rat. Rat stared at spinach. Then cat’s head jerked as her nose lifted and she sniffed left, right, straight ahead, then — ah! She raised her front end and fell on the rat. I turned away in shame.

Could I not have left the rat to its indolent vegetarian meal (and backyard breeding programme)?

Anyway, rat gave cat the slip and half an hour later cat was still weaving in and out of the beans, lettuces, spuds and long grass, hunting. At day’s end she ate jellimeat.

In the morning, though, I found her gift outside the bedroom door.

Of course, the cat might not have committed the crime. The rat might have fallen from a biplane. I sure hope not. I hope it wasn’t this rat.

Rich pickings from the blogroll this week:

Claire commits alchemy with Emily Dickenson and a cheese grater.

Talking of rats, Isabel‘s miracle cat-in-exile makes a second comeback.

Helen analyses a healthy writing group.

Talking of cats, the paradoxical one writes up the launch of Sue Wootton‘s new poems, By Birdlight.

and I've been disappointed.



Nov 11 2011

One woman, many mountains

 

It strikes me, writing this, what a flimsy vessel a book is for recording the plethora of exploits Pat Deavoll has put herself through over the last thirty-five years. Nonetheless, in this handsome volume published by Craig Potton, Pat’s fine, unobtrusive writing makes vivid her favourite places on earth: wild, remote, very high places reached only by great financial, physical, and mental effort.

I met Pat when we were eleven or twelve, on her first day at secondary school. Her quiet and quirky determination to do her own thing and be her own person met with affection and respect. She got on and did things, sometimes extraordinarily; she was a voracious reader and brilliant at subjects that interested her, more or less ignoring (if I recall rightly) those that didn’t. My only claim to fame (besides my anxious resolve from day one that we’d be friends) is that I was there with Norman Hardie and Sal, trailing a little behind, when Pat made her first high-school ascent of Mt Binser in 1975.

Over the years I’ve been a watcher from the far wings as Pat has become arguably NZ’s most skilled woman climber — whether on rock, on Canada’s vertical ice, or on high and technically demanding peaks here and abroad. When she took a break from climbing in the nineties, she quickly became expert in extreme kayaking. Instead of going up, she made first descents of grade 6 falls and Himalayan cataracts.

 The book opens with a whisk through Pat’s rural Canterbury childhood and youth, then lingers over the year or so when she learned to climb. She avoided the popular school-leaver’s route through holiday jobs then university, going instead to Mt Cook to take a series of climbing courses. That summer she became irrevocably embroiled in a life-long string of affairs with challenging mountains.

Most of the book’s themed chapters are shaped around a climb or series of climbs, and variously discuss: the critical need for the right climbing partner; learning to front-point up vertical ice on Canadian waterfalls in temperatures far below zero; the euphoria of climbing huge, remote Alaskan peaks; the tragedy of losing friends to the sport, and how, personally, to square with those risks; the history of women in the NZ mountains and why there are so few top female alpinists (biology or conditioning?). As Pat makes evident, women can manage extreme conditions as well as men, and often with greater courage and endurance.

There’s a chapter, too, about the black dog that’s followed her since her twenties, which she’s determined at last to speak about, rather than hide. Always the climbing feats (and occasional defeats) are woven through with Pat’s questioning of motive and worth — signaling the self-doubt that led to the eventual diagnosis of and treatment for depression. Pat’s willing to admit at last that as a climber she’s good … better … even best, but that knowledge — entwined as it is with her sense of self-worth — is very hard won and in the past could be entirely destroyed by a climb that didn’t turn out optimally i.e. with the summit included.

Around the middle of the book Pat ducks back to the mid eighties when she and husband Brian discovered India and Himalayan Asia. They spent months on end exploring, carrying huge packs to far-off mountains — living on reduced rations, will-power, and their love of wilderness. (Reviewer goes off to shuffle through huge plastic bin of old diaries and correspondence and comes up with the following from Kathmandu, dated 30 March 1985, the day before our Alex was born, the baby referred to in the letter as ‘?’)

In the new century, Pat rediscovered the mountains of Central Asia; she has made numerous forays and done some monumental climbing, including first summits, one in Pakistan — of Karim Sar — alone. Pat makes it clear that the hours spent creeping like a fly up exposed Himalayan faces are what the effort’s all about. The months of planning, training, earning, applying for funding, coordinating expeditions from afar, and getting there by fair means and fraught, are all simply preparation for the cold, exposure, terror, extreme toil and — hope against hope — utter elation of the climb itself.

The most intense passages in the book are classic fare of the sort I used to pore over in NZ Alpine Journals — blow-by-blow accounts that gave you clammy feet and heart palpitations. But those exuberant, meticulously narrated events often took place a few hours from home. Magnify the distances, heights and stakes to international proportions, add a dose of Pat’s stoical understatement and you get an idea of reading Wind from a Distant Summit.

I looked at an early draft in which Pat elaborated on her love of Pakistan and her grasp of its history and politics; in the interests of her own compelling story that seems to have been edited back to a few concise paragraphs, but she’s evidently chewing on the question of what she might contribute in years ahead to a region that’s has given her so much joy and satisfaction. Pat’s rightfully proud of all she’s done and is still doing in a body now into its sixth decade of hard yakka, but there seems no question that, even if it does wear out (did I mention the knee replacement, or the broken back?) to the point that carrying huge packs and making multi-day ascents are out of the question, in some sense Pat will always be ascending; for one, she has this great love for Pakistan and Afghanistan to work out, and it’s obvious from her story that she’s developed extraordinary mental and emotional capacities that can be steered along any avenue she chooses. Then there’s her writing — as stylish and riveting as all she undertakes. I look forward to the next book, whatever it tackles.

But I feel compelled to add, Pat, if you decide to curl up in a corner for the rest of your days with a cat, and a pile of books, cakes and knitting, you’ve totally earned it. Besides, you’ll be no less admired or loved if you ever choose to grow plump on a cushion.

Wind from a Distant Summit is available from Craig Potton Publishing.

Here’s Pat’s website and the FB page for her book.

 


Oct 31 2011

Bones, beans, beds

    The day started with a lit candle that I sat and didn’t look at while I tried not to think either.

A nice young man cranked my arm and shoulder into positions it was reluctant to adopt. However, progress is being made.

I blogged over at Rosa Mira Books, wondering where in a sex shop an author might position herself to deliver a talk about erotica in the old days, the bits that didn’t fit into her novel.

I proof-read the final chapter of Michael Jackson‘s anthropological memoir Road Markings, which Rosa Mira will publish soon. The cover will be by a collaboration of  daughters. And it will look a lot flasher than the image above.

These seedlings found homes today: beans beside path, basil in pot, pumpkin ringed about by rainbow silverbeet.

                           I admired the freshly painted doorstep and freshly oiled door.

  Our son comes home tonight. The bed is welcoming but not wide. It’s all set up for early rising.

                    It was 27 degrees C here today. The vased peonies silently exploded.

 

Now it’s Key versus Goff.  Glib and smug versus honest and earnest. Take your pick.

 


Oct 20 2011

No rhyme or reason


Oct 13 2011

I had a happy birthday

Thanks to all my friends and family and the sun and the dog and birds and people who inspire me, not to mention life itself. . .


Oct 11 2011

Doings

Oil is spilling. Marchers are occupying. An egg is cooling.


Oct 8 2011

After Steve

Yes, we too would be lost without our Apples.

By these means we have bitten into the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We are changed.

The question’s being asked, who can take the place of Steve Jobs? I guess the answer has to be no one and everyone.

David Pogue says in his eulogy: “Suppose, by some miracle, that some kid in a garage somewhere at this moment possesses the marketing, invention, business and design skills of a Steve Jobs. What are the odds that that same person will be comfortable enough — or maybe uncomfortable enough — to swim upstream, against the currents of social, economic and technological norms, all in pursuit of an unshakable vision?

Zero. The odds are zero.”

In fact such multi-talented individuals aren’t uncommon; I know more than a handful. Uncommon is the person who develops and fulfils those talents and capacities and brings something of beauty into being; who brushes aside the extraneous, and flies quick and true toward the goal s/he has set for her/himself. Whether it be caring for children, setting up a business, creating a garden or tidying a bedroom, most of us sigh and prevaricate, look around and dabble instead of doing this One Thing Well.

There’s a groundswell these days, of talk, dreaming, experimenting and reaching for the concept of the ‘possible human’,  which is to say the apparently impossible human who leads a life of high endeavour. The concept might have replaced contentment as the ideal state. (Although, I like to think that contentment and aspiration can walk hand in hand.)

Hundreds of books have been written about this; thousands of websites offer methods and courses for ‘neuro-linguistic programming’, ‘quantum jumping’, ‘integrated enlightenment’, and most of us know that we’re here not to live by rote but to apply ourselves to discerning and following the impulses that arise uniquely in each of us. We do this not for our own sake alone.

There was only one Steve Jobs.

But there are millions of us. We each have at least one particular strength. Many have potent visions. Surely it’s best now if we look not for one person to save us, but find ways to put ourselves together; seek complementary components amongst our friends, colleagues and cyber-groups. Become the greatest human invention of all: a living web of affinities and abilities. Such is the vision that Steve Jobs and his kin have ushered, wittingly or not, into the realm of human imagination, and therefore of possibility.