Monday, September 30, 2013

Old kitchen - new kitchen

Old kitchen - actually it was darker than appears here.
I am still amazed how much difference it has made having a new kitchen. I was undecided until the last whether I needed a new kitchen and almost sent all the boxes back to Ikea when they were unable to do the installation. However I am very pleased I persevered.

New kitchen
These two photos don't really tell the whole story. You can't see that the old kitchen drawers don't work (which is why the cutlery is in jars on the bench top) nor that the cupboards don't shut properly and you probably wouldn't notice that the bench-top is very narrow and much too low for a tall person.

I think it is the height of the new kitchen  bench-top that makes the most difference. Every morning I marvel that I don't have to bend to make the tea. I breakfast at the little bar table I made from the bench-top cut-off, look out over the garden or into the sunny dining room (which is most often a framing or collage work space) and marvel anew.
View from bar table to the garden

Saturday, September 28, 2013

The globe warms up

Fire at Palm Beach in Sydney (photo from abc website)
In New Zealand the leaves are still to unfurl while in Australia it is hotter than ever.
The IPCC report is out, the coal/oil funded climate change deniers are searching for new ways to deny and meanwhile we have had the hottest summer ever and it looks as if another is on the way. Already a fire in the north of Sydney has caught people unawares.

(Photo is from  ABC website )

Remembering the Americas Cup

Australia won the Americas Cup when it was still an amateur sport and they have just held the 30 year celebration. Former Prime Minister Bob Hawke (who famously said on the day the cup was won that 'if anyone sacks a staff member for being awol today they are a bum')  dressed up in his America's Cup jacket and told a joke at the celebrations, a joke of it's time:

Friday, September 27, 2013

Hosts of daffodils in NZ

My sister gathering daffodils
Wordsworths poem I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud was learned by heart by my mother's generation and the host of golden daffodils made a lasting impression, inspiring her to plant her own sea of daffodils.

If you plant a paddock of daffodils like my mother and now my sister, you have the pleasure each spring of harvesting armfuls of beauty, something we city dwellers can only dream of.

You can pick them,
pop them in a vase ...
and then paint them.
Pick them .. a vase

and paint them.

America's cup

Kiwiland has been obsessed by the America's cup during my visit. It was won by the American team, but New Zealanders will be able to lick their wounds in relative privacy because hardly anyone else was watching. A former teammate has now written a letter of congratulations to the kiwi team. A great letter. The kiwi boat and everything but the hull of the American boat were made in NZ, so it was a win for the country despite the final loss.

Addendum: Hmmm, then there is this ... how money buys a boat race.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Transported dough & second rate pastries

Salt and pepper shakers at Mirabelle Cafe
How lucky we were to stumble upon the Cafe Mirabelle in Carterton (NZ). Yes, I mentioned the Mirabelle previously, but my visit there was such a memorable experience I can't help talking about them again.  I would visit Carterton again just to eat their delicious pastries, all of which are made in-house.

Increasingly we hear of dough that is made in one part of the world and shipped to another for baking and the results are a culinary disaster. I first noticed this in Germany where the delicious looking displays no longer tempt me. All their cakes now taste the same and all taste second rate. Now my sister tells me a New Zealand cafe owner proudly informed her that the dough for the pastries she was selling came from France 'so it was really authentic'. I asked her if the pastry had been good.
'No, not really,' said my sister.

Places like the Mirabelle in Carterton restore your faith in cooks and food. How long will it take for the population to revolt and seek out cafes where the food is home made?

One place that still sells delicious and authentic cakes is Slovenia. Perhaps having been part of the Soviet block for so long had some benefits and perhaps all the former Yugoslavia still has good food (my Yugoslav experience is limited to Slovenia). Lets hope they don't ever change. And long live the Mirabelle.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Socks of colour

Who has time to knit socks any more?  Well someone in Tainui (below) does ... which is why it is a 'must visit' destination.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Tiny Tainui

At the Tainui pub
Tainui is a small settlement in the Wairarapa on the road to Castle Point. Goolemaps has missed Tainui, so it you need to hide, that's the place to go. The countryside on the road to Taihui then on to the small seaside settlement of Castle Point is beautiful. It is well worth the trip to non-google-land.

There is a cute pub there with an open fire in the bar, a school and a museum-cum-craft shop that sells all sorts of woollen wares, which I am sure are necessary when the wind blows in from the antarctic.
NZ : The pink dot is Castle Point
Castle Point Lighthouse

Friday, September 20, 2013

Flying Dutchman in New Zealand

St James Theatre, Wellington
Producing The Flying Dutchman is quite an undertaking for a recently formed opera company but Wagner's 200th birthday has inspired the New Zealand Opera to do just that. On Wednesday when I saw the show the St James Theatre in Wellington was packed. Orla Boylan (Senta) and Peter Auty (Erik) delivered their demanding roles with aplomb and Shaun Dixon, originally from tiny Tokoroa,was a charming bright voiced Steersman. During the first half, produced in a minimalist but clever setting which augmented the voices, the evening looked as if it would be a winner.

But then came the chorus scenes and suddenly we were no longer with a group of Norwegian sailors but at a 1950s drunken Antipodean student party with students vomiting and fighting and more beer and chips thrown around the stage than you'd find at the most drunken brawl. The Director was Matthew Lutton from Australia. His credits list a couple of directing roles in Germany and perhaps he took his regie-theatre ideas from there. How pleased I shall be when an opera director is required to know and understand the music and it's cultural setting. Singers and conductors are required to have this knowledge … why not directors?

Thursday, September 19, 2013


Wairarapa landscape
I had never visited the Wairarapa, the region on the south eastern corner of New Zealand's North Island, but I knew it produced world famous wines.

I was not surprised to find a verdant landscape fringed with blue ranges but I was very surprised to find the Wairarapa dotted with quaint towns with French connections.
Carterton Building

Carterton Town Hall, and old building with modern addition

Everywhere there are French cafes, French bistros and French themed shops. I ate the best pastry I have ever tasted at the Mirabelle cafe in Carterton. The owner (very obviously French) assured me it had been made in his own kitchen and I am sure he was right. He had the most delicious prune and custard tart in his vitrine but unfortunately when we went back the next day (a Sunday) the shop was closed. The fabric shop with its lush and sumptuous French-made fabrics was very difficult to leave. The materials were so exquisite, each one lovlier than the next - linen, silk, cotton. 


Monday, September 16, 2013

New Zealand early spring

Fly across the Tasman from Sydney to Wellington in September and suddenly you are in a different season. Early spring. The willows are covered in catkins, the Japonica is flowering and in the warmer valleys the first leaves of spring are unfolding. 

There is still a bitter wind blowing down from the mountains which have just had a new coating of snow; 25 cm says the Bureau of Meteorology.
Catkins on a willow tree

Monday, September 09, 2013

Women and War

Tapes, files, stories
I have been working hard on a book. The last book I wrote was a light-hearted look at love and infused with music.

This one is about war, structured around a series of interviews with German and English women that I recorded in the late 1970s. I wrote the work up at the time but then I got into university in Germany and this project landed in the bottom drawer.

I thought brushing it up would fairly quick, but I was wrong.

 First I reviewed the historical background (women's place in society at the time) that I wrote based on material I collected in the library in Wiesbaden just after I recorded the interviews. I was a bit doubtful about this part of the book because my German was just-learned and I was unsure about the credentials of the people who wrote the books I was quoting. I discover however that I kept excellent notes and collected enough material to enable me to back-check everything. The Internet now makes it easy to check credentials and my doubts about the material have been allayed.  The review is interesting and I have now included more of the material I collected at the time.

When I looked at the interviews themselves I discovered that instead of  translating the interviews verbatim I had summarised them. I have only re-translated one of the 30 interviews so far but it is so much more interesting than my earlier translation. I am not sure why I didn't translate verbatim before but perhaps because my own German was not so good at the time and I wanted to make a story out of the whole thing. Or perhaps I just needed to be older!

So three months into the project I am only part the way through. It is going to take much longer than I expected to revise, but it is proving fascinating and the stories themselves are really readable, or at least the one I have just translated is ... I can see the interviewee there before me in my mind's eye  and it is nearly 40 years since I saw her!

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Not so easy is it?

Well Australia has elected a new prime minister so Kevin Rudd's second prime ministership will have been a short one. Someone commented on late night radio that Julia Gillard and Robbie Deans will be sitting back drinking chardonnay and saying "There you go guys, not so easy is it!"

A few months ago Julia Gillard was deposed by Rudd in the run up to the election after months of misogynist comment and Robbie Deans was replaced by an Australian as coach of the Wallabies after putting up with years of anti-kiwi undercurrent. Deans is a New Zealander and was referred to  as the first foreign born coach of the national team.

Last night the Wallabies lost to the Springboks 38 -12 putting them at the very bottom of the ladder.

Julia Gillard
Robbie Deans

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Boy Band not Lace Curtains

Window with cutout figures
I am not very keen on lace curtains and today I made an alternative for my laundry window using cutout figures. They were made by teenagers who are crazy about the boy band One Direction.

So here they are: Niall, Zayn, Liam, Harry and Louis ... with some friends.
The morning sun shines through
There is a T-shirt for those with a similar obsession. Click on the link below and  add the names yourself!

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Violins dance to Greig

The Engegård Quartet plays Grieg and the violins dance.

 I made this little film a couple of years ago now, but I still like it!

Monday, September 02, 2013

Chemical weapons and bad friends

Australian politicians are sometimes very bad friends to the USA.  Foreign Minister Bob Carr tells the US to 'bomb them' and warns Australian Syrians to 'keep out of it'. I hope President Obama has more sensible and knowledgeable advisers around him than those from across the pacific. Planning to bomb civilians to protect civilians is  not a good plan.

re-run of Irak? 

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Mercedes Benz and Hitler

Clever clever .... a film student's fantasy.
How Mercedes-Benz killed Hitler: