Category: Life

  • Día de los muertos

    I’ve tried to translate what Elena wrote to me (with the photos — thanks, Elena) about this important day in Jujuy in the north of Argentina; this is the gist, anyway, of the bits I could manage: … people don’t go to work because their dead are expecting them. As I live near a cemetery…

  • Alternative Halloween

    In Argentina the dead are given the goods: their own miniature town with the best view in the neighbourhood, flowers galore, gossipy prayer sessions with the living, and food. On the annual ‘day of the dead’ families spread picnics on the graves including the dead one’s favourite dishes, tell stories, and celebrate their life and…

  • Mother!

    ‘Congratulations!!! Congratulations on the pregnancy. How many months are you?’ Gosh the dangers of mistranslation. I thought I was signing off my message to Silvia with a hug. Con un embrazo. But no, I should have said un abrazo. This is how rumours begin. However, I was flattered that she considered it a possibility for…

  • Patagonia plus

    Could be Canterbury? We were heading a little left of here, towards the marvellous rock faces of Mt Fitzroy. Or is it Fitz Roy? On to the Perito Moreno Glacier. Mesmerising, except that staring eyes eventually were stabbed by needles of snow. 3000 miles to the north it’s warm in Jujuy. I swam amongst demented…

  • Half ’n’ half

    Work and play run together. Here’s the lunch table. Just un poco vino at this time of day… When is a dog not on the (forbidden) sofa? Meet Pocha. We happened upon a tango class. Lovely Alejandra (L) gave us two lessons before she and Ariel returned to Buenos Aires. In the class we met…

  • The risotto

    Okay, so the risotto looks oddly like the jellyfish I saw washed up on one of those toxic Auckland beaches the day before I came here, but it tasted fantastic (except that the mushrooms had the texture of, well, jellyfish, probably). Talking of mushrooms, an hour up the road is the fast-growing city of Mar…

  • Scrapbook

    Wanting soap, I held my hands under the pink thing. Waved them about. Squeezed it. Nada. Then I realised it was the soap. You wet your hands and caress it… Go out the door of our little house and look left due west up the sandy road. La pampa begins. Drive for an hour and…

  • From BA…

    … to Pinamar four hours down the Atlantic coast. That’s taken up the first week in Argentina. We’re doing some good work on our novel, have hired bikes which we park inside at night like two pampered ponies. I’m working my way through Spanish Pastries 1, and Calvin and Hobbes, the Spanish version, for the…

  • Amigas

    Jajajajajaja! That’s how they laugh in Argentina. That’s the first line of any email from Elena on receipt of another three laboured lines from me in Spanish. My young tutor Pia from Chile has been excellent. She hasn’t laughed at the knots I’ve tied in her language. She makes me feel I’m communicating. I can…

  • First, find your Mohammed

    Tantalised by Claire’s delicious story about a Moroccan chef called Mohammed making a tagine, I realised I had my very own … May 2005, I was at Can Serrat Artists’ and Writers’ Residency at the base of Montserrat near Barcelona. From my memoir Digging for Spain: When the original twelve Norwegian art students bought the…

  • Who’s going to do it?

    This can happen: you find yourself up on a stool tonging moss from crevices in the aluminium windows, and I’m talking inside the house. It’s in the order of nose-picking: wrong and thrilling at the same time. Fired by that novel experience, I got out the sewing machine to hem the new bed cover. The…

  • Domestic warmth

    He seized the base of the disintegrated log basket and thrust it into the fire. She urged him to move over so she could also watch the woven cane blacken in the flames, then she ran for the camera. He remonstrated with her as she opened the door and fire roared back from the gust…

  • Decadence

    Northeasterly rain: the wet, persistent, three-day kind. I’ve strung the washing up under the house, wiped the windows off for the second time, split some firewood, and huddled up to the wood burner; even the fire slouches along in this weather. I wouldn’t mind something to snack on — something reminiscent of warmer days —…

  • Polly still doesn’t get it

    And then this morning I read that military spending worldwide has increased 45% in the last decade. A tidy sum at 1,226 billion dollars. (Curiously enough, now I look for the BBC page, it’s been removed from the headlines, as if it’s just too embarrassing to leave lying about.) What kind of malevolent energy does…

  • Osu

    This is Polly, got up in the top half of my gi. I wrote something for the recent pecha kucha evening (12 speakers, each with 20 images addressed for 20 seconds each) about the interface of writing and karate. I said that each might be seen as a way of containing and giving shape to…

  • 6-foot dialogue

    I know I’ve used this image already but there’s more to be said about the feet, of which two are engaged to be married, two are homeless overseas, and two belong to the parents of the other four. One of the parents was discussing with another parent recently the states of daughterhood and motherhood —…

  • On the road to strange?

    October 2007. Returning from a rainy bush walk on the Mississippi, I cheered myself up, and tested my knees, hips and footing, doing what we used to call a Dutch leap. One of the Middle Eastern contingent exclaimed (I paraphrase), ‘Omg, you can use your body. You bike and swim, and walk for miles.’ (Next…

  • Engagements

    Three occur to me, from this week: the new washing machine with our taps and plug (R.I.P. the trusty friend that washed perhaps 5,000 loads in her 19 years); myself with a ball of wool and the 6.5s (Knitting for Africa); and the one that’s fully engaging heart and mind … momentously, wonderfully, marking a…

  • Taking what’s near

    I sat out on the door-sill of the old shed, under the grapevine, to read through the newly arrived book contract, feeling the thrills of hope and desire (that word again) that accompany a new venture. Ker-thug. A brown leaf, large as a hand, and as gnarled, dropped onto the open pages. And a second.…

  • Devices and desires

    In the interests of beautiful feet (the material version thereof), I was shopping for a new piece of sandpaper. Banish ‘callous’ heels said the tiny print on the box, and believe me, by the end of summer, mine are ruthless and I want them gone. I was in the 1, 2, 3-dollar shop, shushing my…

  • In the web

    Before one daughter photographed the other photographing this obliging Pisan dog now introduced to you, they had spent the entire night walking round and round Siena, there being no room for them in the inns. NZ girls WOOFing in Italy. At any moment, however, they were only a text message away from home. I think…

  • Sunday

    … and the darkness has not overcome it.

  • Saturday

  • Good Friday

    And he bought a linen shroud, and taking him down, wrapped him in the linen shroud, and laid him in a tomb which had been hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a stone against the door of the tomb. Mark 15:46

  • Bring on the dogs

    A bit gloomy today. Springing out of bed early (hooray for daylight-spending!) and swimming failed to work their usual magic. The postie brought tripe, I wrote half a page of tripe, and nobody emailed. Didn’t want to blog, probably ever again. But gloom, like the fudge that arrived today from Edinburgh in an paper bag,…