Tag Archives: tropical

Precious Jewels….fake or fine?

Jewel

“late 13c., “article of value used for adornment,” from Anglo-French juel, Old French jouel “ornament, jewel” (12c.), perhaps from Medieval Latin jocale, from Latin jocus “pastime, sport,” in Vulgar Latin “that which causes joy” (see joke (n.)). Another theory traces it to Latin gaudium, also with a notion of “rejoice” (see joy).” http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=jewel

Precious jewellery from my grandmother

Precious jewellery from my grandmother, perhaps inherited from her mother.

“Sense of “precious stone” developed early 14c. Meaning “beloved person, admired woman” is late 14c.” http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=jewel

My mother's autograph book; her own entry for 24 July 1933

My mother’s autograph book; her own entry for 24 August 1933

Another beloved, admired jewel in ‘my book’, who brings joy and rejoicing, is dear, true friend  Lisa Brunetti . A few weeks ago, I asked if she would permit me to use one of her paintings to illustrate a poem  written by my daughter. Yes, of course, she said, and sent, not one, but eight, beautiful photos of her work. Such generosity of spirit and kindness warms my heart to its core.    And, for those of you who already know Lisa, sending so many samples via her ultra slow internet connection was not a simple matter. It took time and considerable effort. Thank you, Lisa, friend with a soul as beautiful as a rare Ecuadorean Emerald.

My daughter’s poem needs some final editing before it is ready for posting on my blog, but here are a few lines, to put a sparkle in your eye, until the final version is available.

Lark of lizards, plastic little gecko,
how I love the echo of your calls,..

…so often past the midnight have I seen
you, gaudious gelatinous-fingered gecko,
munching moth-mouthed on the meshing screens

Geckos and their lives were an integral, and much loved,  part of my childhood in Fiji. As they talked and stalked their way along ceilings and walls, or simply rested, stilled and waiting,  they kept us company. On long tropical nights, we watched each other, and together listened to the radio and each other’s words. My daughter, in Cairns, is learning to enjoy and understand  their companionship.

No geckos for me, on this cold, hail-ridden, third day of autumn, in Christchurch. Instead, this  bright jewel came to my window during a brief respite in the storm. I smiled at the way it looked at me, and  I said “Kia Ora, welcome to my window.”

True Friend or Autumn Leaf?

True Friend or Autumn Leaf?

But, then, I wondered if I had chosen the wrong greeting because, it seems to me, this little one may not be our native Orthodera novaezealandiae,

but its South African Springbok rival, Miomatis caffra,

that was accidentally brought to New Zealand in the 1970s.

The endemic New Zealand praying mantis …  is currently wide spread through out most of the country, but faces the threat of at least local extinction in many areas because of the competition from the Spring bok praying mantis. If nothing is done to protect our native praying mantis, within a few decades we may no longer be able to observe its intriguing way of life in our gardens. http://www.canterburynature.org/species/lincoln_essays/nzmantis.php

Pray tell me are you jewel or thief?

Pray tell me are you jewel or thief?

Pray tell me, someone,  if this gorgeous creature is jewel or thief? True friend or autumn leaf?

[I wonder if our rugby board knows that the rivalry between South Africa and New Zealand has taken a leap off-pitch, and New Zealand isn’t winning. The Spring Boks are taking out the All (Green) Blacks big time, and on our own home turf.]

One last diamond to add to my post:

Before this month ends,  I will receive a visitor from across the Tasman Sea. We haven’t seen each other for more than a decade. In fact, we have seen each other only once or twice in the last 45 years. But we are bonded by a shared childhood and our friendship has endured. I wonder if either of us understood the sturdy ring of truth in these words, when Jennifer penned them in my autograph book on 15 June 1967, in our island home, Lautoka, Fiji.

A Diamond Friendship

A Diamond Friendship

Mother's Autograph Book 1933

Mother’s Autograph Book 1933

May your friendships be blessed jewels in your life.

© silkannthreades

Canada Dreaming

Where do you sail?

Where do you sail?

Although I grew up  on a very little island, my life was far from little or insular. I am not sure how the term insular came in to being because most island life, it seems to me, is  exposed to the comings and goings of the wider world.  It is in the very nature of an island to be outward looking; with eyes always turned to the horizon at sea and minds dreaming of what lies beyond.

Some  of my childhood dreams revolved around a huge country, namely Canada.  My dreaming was  influenced by a book we had, at home, about a modern (1960s!) Canadian family exploring their own country. The book had a stunning photo of what I thought must be the most beautiful lake in the world, Lake Louise. And I yearned to be like that travelling family, standing by that lake, breathing in the beauty of Canada.

My yearning and dreaming, and, most likely, some suggesting to my parents that we take our next holiday in Canada, came to nought. Nought, that is, unless I count my greatest (ever!) school project, entitled Canada. I completed this ‘master’work  during my last year at elementary school, when  I was about 11 years old.  I remember the hours I spent on it; the careful penmanship, the drawings, the maps, the frustration of the maple leaf  that refused to be drawn correctly; the beautifully straight, ruled lines I made across the pages. Ah, it was a labour of love; and  a labour of  heavily plagiarized content, as well. References, or sources, were not part of a school project in those far off days 🙂

Maybe the project lacked originality, but I adored it, and have kept it safe for more than forty years. Like me, it has travelled the world and rested in many homes. Unlike me, it has stayed in good physical shape and, apart from some discolouration and a few loose pages, it is much the same as on the day I finished it.

Here is a glimpse of the project. As you look at the slide show, imagine a young girl, in an old, wooden classroom, in a little sugar industry town, on a small island in the large Pacific Ocean, studiously and carefully  recreating  the story of Canada. And, for extra fun, imagine also that maybe, just maybe, that circa 1968, there was, in the middle of Canada, on a deeply snowy day, a young person dreaming and writing about small islands in the far Pacific, for I am sure there was one such child.

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Did you look carefully at the brochure   for the Canadian Pacific Railway trains? I put it  in my project because I thought those scenes  were the epitome of elegance and luxury.

Note: to  11 year  old self….how could you do this?????

Erratum required

Erratum required

© silkannthreades

Backyard learnings

When I was very young, I went to kindergarten (pre-school) in my own back yard; my  very own backyard on the tropical island of Fiji. The kindergarten was owned by my mother who was also the sole teacher. It was a wonderful little school and the best part of it was that I didn’t have to leave it to go home. It was home, and I could play there all day and every day for as long as I wanted. It was a very pleasant introduction to education.

Backyard Kindy

Backyard Kindy

That’s me at the top of the slide! At least I think it is!

Sand and sun and stories

Sand and sun and stories

My father made most of the equipment including the much loved cars made from packing boxes.

As the only kindergarten in town, (and possibly the entire Colony of Fiji), there was always a waiting list for my mother’s school. She hated turning away children  but there was a limit to the number of little ones she could handle on her own. The fees charged were miniscule, token, in fact, because her training and background were in the old New Zealand  tradition of free education for kindergarten children. (Plus, I think the colonial authorities may have had some rules about  private enterprise on colonial property, which our house was! ) She took that tradition with her from New Zealand to Fiji, and stood by it, throughout her working life as a teacher/school owner/manager.

We had a great selection of books at my mother’s kindy. I still have many of them but here are two favourites of mine.

One of the Nine Stories has fallen out of favour but the remaining eight are still popular with today’s children, as far as I know.

So, in this simple setting, with these little books, and others like them, my interest in literature, in reading, took its first steps.

Today, I am reading on my laptop via  Project Gutenberg Australia “The Diary of a Provincial Lady” by E.M Delafield. I feel that this passage was written for me:

‘January 14th.–I have occasion to observe, not for the first time, how extraordinarily plain a cold can make one look, affecting hair, complexion, and features generally, besides nose and upper lip. Cook assures me that colds always run through the house and that she herself has been suffering from sore throat for weeks, but is never one to make a fuss. (Query: Is this meant to imply that similar fortitude should be, but is not, displayed by me?) Mademoiselle says she hopes children will not catch my cold, but that both sneezed this morning. I run short of handkerchiefs.

January 16th.–We all run short of handkerchiefs.’

By my bedside table, for evening reading, I have “Toujours Provence” by Peter Mayle.  For any time reading, I have “Poem for the Day’ edited by Nicholas Albery and “To Bless the Space Between Us” by John O’Donohue. For idle moments, I have the newspaper where I read that the Humane Society of the United States has endorsed the launch of DogTV, a round the clock digital cable channel, specifically programmed for your dog.  I have not passed on this news to my little friend, Jack, but, then, he is  content to soothe his ears with the voices from  Radio New Zealand (http://www.radionz.co.nz/). I do hope, however,  he closed his ears when the announcer said that our Parliament has just passed  legislation to regulate the sale of legal highs, (party pills and synthetic cannabis).  Sadly, this legislation which  requires manufacturers to prove their products are safe for human use, before they can be sold in New Zealand,  will certainly  mean a continuation of unnecessary animal testing . I can’t help thinking that many of us  would do well to return to our kindergarten roots. We would do well to  remember how much pleasure and fun and wonderful highs we got from our very first books, featuring members of the animal kingdom.

Here is another of my favourite books that I first met in the kindergarten in my very own backyard.

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© silkannthreades

Medlars; the moment of truth?

The medlars had begun their bletting; remember this?Bletting MedlarsThe two medlars on the left of the photo appeared to be fully bletted (rotted), so I cut one of them in half and discovered this;Are you ready?Gulp……am I really going to eat this?…. why, yes, but not in one gulp!  I take my most elegant teaspoon (so I can convince myself I am tasting something gorgeous and unrotten) and scrape out a small amount of the soft, thick, apple sauce textured flesh. I  gingerly place the morsel  in my mouth……to search for  the moment of  truth; to understand the essence of medlar.    Mmmmmm……Mmmmmm?  Doesn’t smell bad; doesn’t smell anything. Doesn’t taste bad, but how does it taste?  Like a floury, very ripe crab apple, minus any of the sharpness of apple, and steeped with the spices of mulled wine?  Possibly……but there’s another taste that is tickling my tongue; a taste that has been lost with time. Another delicate scrape licked from the spoon and, suddenly, my senses are whiplashed back through five decades, to a place and time about as far removed from my present placing as one can get.  I am in the warm tropics, in the tiny town of my birth. I am with my friend Julie, under the tamarind tree by her garden gate. It is tamarind season and we are sampling the tamarinds. We open the dry pods and suck on the sour, sticky, date-brown pulp, delighting in its acidity. We delight, too, in spitting the big seeds once we have sucked all the flesh from them.  We feel free, and adventurous, gathering sustenance from the ‘wild’. Sometimes, we find a tamarind that is riper than the others. It has a faint mustiness, an otherness to it; not unpleasant, not sweet, not sour, but we toss it aside because it is the sour fruit we crave.

So, a medlar tastes like a tamarind? In a way, yes. A little bit; like one of the musty, over ripe tamarinds, devoid of any hint of sourness.  That is where my taste bud inventory took me; back to the tamarind tree. But, whether or not  it is more like a floury crab apple or a musty tamarind, or a combination of both, it is assuredly an ancient flavour; in the same way as the flavours of the crab apple and the tamarind belong to the ancient realms.  The medlar’s taste belongs to the ages, and, like the best of fine whisky, or aged cheese, needs to be savoured gently to appreciate its uniqueness. That I can vouch for.

Now that I have thoroughly confused you about the flavour of medlars, here’s a photo with a hint of what I am going to do with them next………

Time for the next stepTree notes: If you would like to know more about the tamarind tree, this link to Kew Gardens provides excellent information  http://www.kew.org/plants-fungi/Tamarindus-indica.htm

© silkannthreades

A place setting for restful memories

I had a couple of  dizzy spells during the weekend.  I didn’t, and don’t, feel unwell, so maybe the dizziness was caused by insufficient fluid intake or, perhaps, it was my body telling me to put my feet up for a while. I was going to say “telling me to slow down” but I don’t go very fast anyway .If I went any slower I would come to a stand still. However, in my slow way, I potter around a great deal and rarely sit down except for meals or when I am driving.

To appease the Gods of Dizzy, on  Saturday I had a rest on the sofa which the dog thought was wonderful. “Yay, she’s sitting still. We can snuggle” seemed to be the message from a delighted pooch. Yesterday, I went to the hairdresser where I had a lovely sit down for 30 minutes. And, today, I am forcing myself to sit down at the computer. Usually, I stand to work at the computer. Why? Bad habits, I suppose. And it’s easier to multi task that way.

So, although I am feeling fine and undizzy today, I do feel in need of quiet and one thing that says quiet to me is this photo that I took, last year, in my pre-blogging days. Be StillIn the photo, you can see a small breakfast set that I have had for more than 30 years. (It’s been with me longer than my husband!) Why does this say “quiet” to me on this day?  I am not sure. Is it the design, the colours, the shapes or the associations? Or all of these things?

The set  certainly takes me back to a time, and a place, where putting up your feet  and having a relaxing daytime nap were considered  a normal part of a lady’s daily routine. Memories of my colonial childhood in the tropics are full of images of mothers (not mine!) who were not to be disturbed during their afternoon siesta. Children were required to play quietly. That might have been boring, but we soon realised that  quietly didn’t have to be synonymous with staying out of mischief. Although we were well-behaved, most of the time.  I can only remember being told off once for being too noisy and disturbing a napping mother.  And it really wasn’t my fault, it was my friend’s! 🙂

And that is all I will write because today is for quiet moments and memories and contemplation.

China note: The pattern is Mayflower and the china is made by Figgio of Norway.