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Archive for the ‘Just life’ Category

  • We stayed with friends our on the beach on the weekend, and held one of our regular degustation meals, torturing or boring friends on social media with photos of the food and wine. It is our second this year, but it is 2020, so we figured we deserved an extra one this year! We tried to do more of an international theme this time, with British cheese, Thai soup, Sicilian cheesecake, and French, US, and Australian wines complementing the NZ sauvignon blanc and my homemade lockdown limoncello. A few days earlier I appealed to my US friends – what was an American savoury dish I could do as an entrée*/starter course to accompany a Californian chardonnay my friend had. The responses were fascinating – and thanks to those reading this who appealed – because defining what was “American” food didn’t seem to be clear. Of course, it would be the same here or also in Australia, because so much of our cuisine is borrowed from other cultures. Even in the UK, a national dish is Chicken Tikka Masala! So while the various seafood or other suggestions all sounded delicious, they didn’t sound particularly “American” to me. With the exception of grits, fried green tomatoes, or Maryland crab cakes, all of which I hope to try one day. I decided in the end to do a play on pumpkin pie, and made a savoury butternut pumpkin tart – much to the confusion of some who thought I was matching a sweet pumpkin pie with a chardonnay. After settling the cultural misunderstanding, we agreed that that sounded gross! The meal (with all seven courses) was delicious, we had used seasonal produce from their garden (notably, the last of their asparagus, and plentiful fresh raspberries), we had both tried some new recipes (mostly do-ahead, which was good considering that our recipe-reading skills deteriorated as the night went on), and we got to watch the rugby** during the cheese course!

* in the correct (!), “before” meaning of the word entrée.
** NZ won, for the record.

  • Overnight and the next morning, there was a major downpour, and we awoke to find the stream in the bottom of their garden had broken its banks, and was swamping some of their fruit trees, and even the asparagus bed was at risk. Oh no! Fortunately the rain stopped and the flooding subsided, so we set off home, only to find that we were stuck in traffic due to a road closure for further flooding. On the news last night, our eagle-eyed friends noticed footage including our car navigating a flooded section of the road just after it had been opened. Our five seconds of fame?
  • I’ve just finished watching the latest series of The Crown. It’s all feeling a bit too current, and the historical inaccuracies – presumably deliberate – are irritating if you remember the actual events. Margaret Thatcher’s son did not go missing at the same time as she went to war with Argentina – these events happened months apart. I remember discussing the war with Argentina with my flatmates at university. New Zealand has a long tradition of following Britain into war – one Prime Minister famously  said “where Britain goes, we go,” – and so my male flatmates were talking about whether they would be keen to sign up or not if it became necessary. NZers are miffed at another misrepresentation. When Diana and Charles visited Australia and New Zealand, they brought William. There was an official photoshoot of them with William at Government House in Auckland, on a lovely green lawn, with an iconic kiwi toy, the Buzzy Bee. In the series, the scene is hideously transplanted to Australia, on what looks like a patch of dust and dirt. It makes no difference to the story, but … it was annoying. There are many other examples too. We’re used to seeing history fictionalised in film and TV, too often to boost the reputation of the country funding the movie or film. A more recent example, Argo, the Oscar-winning movie of 2012, mentions that the British and Kiwis wouldn’t help, which was untrue. Diplomats I met just a few years later actually drove the Americans to the airport when they were making their escape. I understand using artistic license, but if a film-maker is presenting something as a factual account, I wish they weren’t so casual with the truth. Also, I figured out that Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s was about the same age I am now, but Gillian Anderson makes her seem about 75! So I have to say that I’m now not convinced that I will want to watch any future seasons of The Crown. Even if it had been historically accurate, the dialogue (which is really the whole thing) just seems invented, and very manipulative.
  • I heard an interview with a Kiwi singer who had been living in Los Angeles, and has recently moved back to New Zealand. When asked if she was enjoying being “back to normal” here in NZ, she responded that it had actually been very scary for her. She had spent months seeing other people as a threat, and so the proximity of unmasked NZers at bars and restaurants was quite unnerving, and took her a long time before she could relax. It makes me wonder how we will all adapt in the future. I imagine travelling in Europe or the US or India, for example, and even if or when we have an effective vaccine, I think it will take a long time before I feel safe enough to get on a plane to those destinations. Not too long though, I hope.
  • On the bright side, 2020 hasn’t been all bad. NZ had a calm and decent national election in October, there is hope in the US for the coming years, my SIL has gone into remission from the cancer she was diagnosed with last year (and was able to tell FIL before he died), and in the US, a second friend who went through a very difficult radiation treatment during lockdown has also been declared to be in remission. That was all good news, and gives me hope for more in 2021. I just hope I haven’t spoken too soon!

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#21 of Blogging with Friends

I’ve received lots of good advice over the years, from friends, colleagues, family. We don’t always recognise good advice when we’re given it, but it usually sinks in. Eventually. The first piece of advice I was given in my first full-time job was from a colleague, who never really took his own advice. But I heard it, and at critical times, I was able to take it. “No-one is indispensable.”

I think that the context at the time was about being sick and taking time off work, or going home at a reasonable time. He pointed out that I should look around at all the people who worked with me, and that if something was important, it could always get done. I took that advice later on in my career – it helped me to learn to delegate, for example. Of course, it wasn’t always true. But when it was, it helped.

That was similar to very important advice I was given about 15 years later, when I was told* that it is okay to ask for help. It’s very similar to the idea of being indispensable, but a lot broader too. And it allows for an admission of weakness or vulnerability, something that was perhaps easier to do in my personal life than in my first full-time job as a young woman surrounded by high achievers. Or maybe it’s easier to admit weakness or vulnerability or frailty as we grow as human beings, because we have a more confident sense of who we are? Asking for help doesn’t mean we are inadequate or can’t cope. It means we recognise what we can and can’t do, it means we love and trust others enough to show our vulnerability, and admit we need help. Being too proud to ask for help is often held up as a virtue. I think that it is born out of fear – fear to show vulnerability, to put our faith in others, to admit we need others, and to risk rejection. So remember, ask for help. The idea of it is hard to do. But it’s really not that difficult. Try it. You might be surprised by the rewards.

* I can’t remember who told me this. It was a friend online – possibly Izzie or Sarahg or Mary or any of dozens of others. To whoever it was, thank you.

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I have a lot of posts half-written now – or perhaps, less than half-written. But they’re not ready to go, and today I’ve been distracted with other chores, so I thought I’d share a photo or two from a very pleasant walk I took at the end of last week with my husband. When the wind drops in Wellington in spring, it is time to grab the opportunity and get out and walk. This year we’ve been trying to find new places to walk, because – perhaps due to the lockdown – I’m a bit sick of walking around my neighbourhood, frankly. For years we have been driving over a particular bridge at the beginning of a valley, and I’ve looked at the river and the walking paths along it and thought or said or both, “we really should walk up there one of these days.” But the decades passed, and we always drove on, needing to check in with the in-laws, and getting caught up there. Now that they’re gone, though, we felt free to park under the bridge, and take a walk.

It’s a simple path, made for dog-walkers and human walkers and cyclists, along a river. There’s nothing strenuous about it, but perhaps that’s the point. It is relaxing, we were surrounded by green, with trees with new spring leaves lining the river, and on the other side of the path, a couple of paddocks, a driving range nearest the bridge, and an expensive golf course next to the path. This was the adventureland of my husband when he was a child, before the driving range, and when the paddocks still had cows and sheep, and before the bypass was built on the other side of the river.

In the midst of some small rapids on the river was a fisherman, casting his line out into the calmer water. We tried to imagine what he was hoping to catch. “There aren’t any fish in that river!” my husband exclaimed. But the water was crystal clear, running down from the mountains without travelling through farmland or industry, and so it would make sense that there are a few. We were passed by the occasional cyclist, a jogger with a very tired dog, and we never caught up to the woman pushing the pram way up ahead of us. We eventually turned and walked back to the car. The exercise was good to have, but better than that, we had time to breathe some fresh clear air, enjoy the sun, and feel some peace.

Note: I did not play with the colours at all on these photos. It really was that green.

Can you see the fisherman?

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