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The birth of a tradition

As usual, the Weekend Market at Chatuchak was hot, steamy, wet, smelly, and very crowded. But if you go accepting that fact, it is full of delights. This time though, we were visitors to Bangkok, and couldn’t buy anything that would be too bulky for our suitcases, or too breakable to take on the journey. And there were different items for sale – many more homewares and art than when I first visited.

That was back in March 1980, when the market was based at Sanam Luang (a large field over the road from the Grand Palace). It was my first full day in Bangkok, and it was overwhelming. Over that year, I visited the Weekend Market many times, usually wearing our school uniforms because then we could truly haggle (we’re only students, we have no money!). Then ten years later, when I returned to work at the New Zealand Embassy, we were regular visitors and took all our guests there too. I still have the table lamp and other items we bought there.

Fast forward another 18 years, and we were back at the market with friends who were working at the Embassy. We came across a large area selling crockery. Particularly interesting were some tiny, brightly-coloured cups (espresso-sized, I guess) and saucers. My friend fell in love with them, and she and I spent a long time choosing flawless cups and saucers (there were a lot of seconds in the large baskets) and mixing and matching the colours, without any duplication. The men wandered off. This was not their scene. They didn’t realise that these cups might influence their social life for decades.

“But really,” C said as she was sorting through the basket, and looking for a lime green saucer that would work with the splash of green on one cup, “what will I use the cups for? They’re so small.”

I had a brainwave. “You could use them for chocolate mousse, or soups for a fancy meal. You know, when you only need a couple of mouthfuls of soup because there are six more courses to come.” She loved the idea, and bought the cups and saucers. When she returned to New Zealand, and some years later bought a house that was made for entertaining, we remembered the idea of a fancy dinner. And so, our semi-annual/annual degustation dinners were born.

A mountain walk

In November last year I visited Tongariro National Park around the three volcanoes in the very middle of the North Island. We enjoyed it so much, that this week we went back. The weather was perfect for us, so we went on rather longer walks than we did last time (when we were dodging showers). We were above 1100 metres altitude, staying in the North Island’s main ski village, and in a volcanic area, so the only trees were the pockets of mountain beech we walked through along the banks of a couple of the streams. The shade was welcome, and the sounds of the birds singings and the trickle of streams was calming, and it all made the walking easier. There’s something about walking in New Zealand bush that is meditative. As long as we keep our attention on where our feet are going!

Another in the Thursday Tree Love series – find all the other bloggers doing it here.

Night owl

We’ve lived in this house for a long time, and for most of the years here, we have heard a morepork or ruru calling at night. I can’t ever remember a period of time when we didn’t hear it, and it is lovely to hear it start up shortly after it is dark, or when I am walking around a quiet house turning everything off before I go to bed, or lying in bed. The sound is comforting – our old friend is there, and all is well.

Listen to the ruru

The ruru (or morepork) is a small native owl, with a plaintive call, leading to its onomatopoeic names in both Maori and English. The call is piercing, and I can never quite tell if it is coming from our pines in front of the house, one of the many trees below our house, the ngaio trees behind the house, or the macrocarpa behind us! They like to roost in high trees, and these are amongst the highest around. Doing a bit of research on the ruru today, I learned that they defend a territory of around 5 hectares, which is quite a big area for a little owl. Perhaps that is why, in all these years of hearing them call, we have never seen one. It makes me feel lucky to have had generations of the same family (they live for about 10-11 years, apparently) in residence for for so many years.

So last Christmas, after my husband had been complaining that we always heard the ruru but never saw it, I bought him a metal ruru from Metalbird. Finally, he could see one! Eleven months later, he finally put it up. We can see it from our kitchen window, or from the deck where we like to sit with a drink or a book (or both) on summer evenings. It looks especially good in the low sun, and makes me smile. It started off a steely grey, but within a week it has oxidised, and is a lovely golden brown now. It looks good with the plants behind it, and great against the sky from the table on our deck. One of my more successful Christmas purchases!

Footnote: A month or two ago, my husband went out the back of the house to put the rubbish out. On the macrocarpa tree, there was a small owl sitting there looking at him. He ran in and called me. But by the time I got out there to see it, it had flown off. So now I have to be content with our metal version. I still want to see the real thing though.

Learn more about the morepork/ruru here.