Monthly Archives: November 2012

Small words on long journeys

Long before there were Facebook friends and Blog Followers, there were pen friends. Remember them? We chose a name from the penpal section of the newspaper and wrote, in our best possible script, quaint , little words on paper and sent them across the oceans, by boat or plane, to people we had never met  face to face ,and weren’t likely to. Sometimes, the letters criss-crossed the globe for a few months and ,sometimes, longer.  My mother and her pen friend wrote to each other for about forty years. In a sense, they are still writing because, after her friend’s death, my mother continued, and continues, to write to her daughter.

I thought about my mother’s pen friend this morning when I picked a beautiful Iceberg rose and placed it in a much treasured, and much travelled, tiny, green glass jug.  The jug was given to me, filled with violets, for my 23rd birthday. It was a gift from my mother’s pen friend on my first visit to her home in the Netherlands.

It never ceases to amaze me that a few small words, such as Dear Friend, can take us on such long journeys. From here to there and back again, over and over, and every which way, through time and space.

Questions: Will our internet friends last the distance? What is the distance?  Will our internet life bring treasured memories?  Will there be tangible outcomes from our word paths across the world? Upon what journeys are we sending our words when we press Publish?

Lovely, leafy St James Park

St James Park is an old fashioned kind of park, with tree canopied pathways and a large central area of grass. It is leafy. It is lovely. That’s all there is to it ….almost.

All the trees survived the earthquakes, as most other trees did throughout the city. They remained upright, unlike many of our buildings. There must be lessons to be learned in their leafy loveliness.  (Oops, that’s a lot of unintended alliteration but I am not going to delete it because alliteration is ridiculously good fun.)  Lessons about foundations, natural and harmonious proportions and resilient building materials, to mention a few.

The  lovely treesThe leafy shadeThe pathThe canopySigns of age and timesFinally, a bit of treeckery
The horizontal branches of this tree were so long and straight that from a certain angle I could make them look like individual, upright trees. Fun.

A Bowlful of Jelly

A bowlful of rhubarb jelly and a handful of my own, freshly picked, blackcurrants —-

What more could you want ?  Teeny thyme flowers and bay leaves apparently —–

And some rhubarb on the side.

I don’t know if I will like eating the thyme flowers and the bay leaves; on their own, maybe, but not with a spoonful of jelly.  Ice cream is more likely to be the accompaniment. However, I do know that I will like the rhubarb jelly. It is one of my all time favourite desserts, particularly if the rhubarb is slightly tart.

When I make a red jelly, I am immediately taken back, in my head, to my paternal grandmother’s kitchen. I am standing next to her at the kitchen bench watching her turn a packet of jelly crystals into a small bowl of jelly. No fruit, just jelly. It seems to me that she leaves it to set on the bench top.  ( Were our houses really so cold back then? )  In the evening, we will have it with custard, sometimes a baked custard, cream and ice cream. It’s all delicious.

The bay leaves remind me of the custards she prepared. In her younger days she used to put laurel leaves in the custard. Not in my time, but I have heard the stories.

And, before I indulge in jelly, a special note to my parents, who do not share my taste for jelly, but love blackcurrants; I only have a handful of blackcurrants to decorate the jelly because I ate another handful whilst I was picking them. They are sweet and juicy enough to eat straight off the bush. No sugar required! You would be pleased.

Ponder this…..

Ponder this whilst you nibble……

I made Fruit and Nut Balls this morning. The recipe for these treats is my favourite from Cooking for Older People, Easy Recipes for One or Two, produced by the Canterbury District Health Board, 2011 Edition. They don’t require cooking, so are super easy to make!As usual, I play around  with the printed recipe. Sometimes I add crystalised ginger and chocolate chips, as I did today. This is the result.Now here is the part to ponder. In the foreward to the recipe book the following statements are made:

Eating well in old age is essential to enjoying life to the full;

Undernutrition in older people is a growing concern in our community;

Age Concern community workers often work with older people who show signs of malnutrition;

A survey of older people, admitted for fractured hips at Christchurch Hospital, found 42% were significantly malnourished;

Despite the need, nutritional information for older people has not been readily available.

My ponderings ….undernutrition and malnutrition of our elderly affects all socio economic groups. The elderly are often unaware that it is happening. Do we need a Jamie Oliver or  MasterChef series to raise awareness of this nutritional problem? Do we need a return to the culture exemplified by Selwyn Muru in the excellent interview on Waka Huia on Sunday, November 25th on TV One. If my memory  is correct, he said that, as youngsters, they were taught to fish by their parents and then to gift the fish to the elders in the community. Were the elders malnourished?  I don’t know, but family concern for their well being was paramount, so,perhaps, with such attention all manner of pitfalls were avoided.

Going to have a fruit and nut ball and ponder that some more. 🙂

Moments of whimsy

When my house flowers are past their use-by date, I usually put them in the compost bin. Last week, I decided they were still too pretty to compost so I set them floating in the bird bath. The water bath revitalised the flowers and the floating flowers revitalised my spirits. Not sure what they did to the birds; created consternation and confusion most likely. The cat, who sometimes likes to drink from the bird bath, probably doesn’t appreciate the flavoured water either. Poor creatures; what they have to put up with because of my moments of whimsy.

Rose and Peony Water


What do Eels think of us?

File:NZ eel.jpg

According to Wiki, this is a photo of the New Zealand Longfin Eel (Anguilla dieffenbachii). It is our only endemic freshwater eel.

Their amazing life story can be read on and

The female of the species can live up to 100 years, and sometimes longer.  She breeds only once, at the end of her lifecycle, and to do this she migrates from her freshwater New Zealand home to Tonga, in the tropical Pacific 5000 kilometres away. She dies after spawning so only her offspring find their way back to New Zealand.

I have seen longfin eels at Willowbank Wildlife Reserve. As far as I am concerned, their appearance leaves a lot to be desired in the cute and cuddly stakes. I daresay these remarkable creatures would say the same about me. And what they would say about my inability to find my way to Tonga without a map or plane or boat, plus supporting crew, doesn’t bear thinking about.

A few days ago, some of the eels had more reason than ever to wonder about human incompetence and stupidity. According to our daily newspaper, a couple of young men, feeling bored and wanting some easy entertainment, purportedly broke in to Willowbank Wildlife Reserve and killed at least two and possibly more of the longfin eels. The eels were about 70 years old.

A great many sad things happened in the world last week but, for me the untimely and undignified deaths of these precious eels was the saddest happening of all.  Sad for the young men, sad for our community but, most of all, sad for the eels. Imagine, if they were 70 years old, they made their way to New Zealand when the Pacific was embroiled in World War 2. They defied the odds to live at all. Yet live and thrive they did, in peace and harmony in a less than perfect, person-messed, environment, until a moment of  thoughtless idleness ended their magnificence.