The Virgin birth and a faux Chinese chest

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The Virgin birth and a faux Chinese Chest

Christmas. It used to have a religious significance for me. But that was a long time ago, the fifties and sixties when I believed almost everything, anyone told me. And I was a dutiful sort of person, obedient, willing and looking for a story that would explain the strangeness of ‘being’, human.

Then I had a family and Christmas was nostalgia and the creation of my own new story, a family story. It was sewing Christmas stockings that we still use, in spite of my limited skills as a sewer. Each year, I bring out the stockings for a brief cameo and then I stow them away in a faux Chinese wooden chest where we keep newspaper clippings and the Christmas lights.

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A virgin birth. It never occurred to me as a child how odd this was. How could a child be cynical about the Angel Gabriel arriving on a beautiful cloud? Mary so pious (in various versions, possibly a little startled), but attractively compliant. You have to remember, I was a Catholic girl who read her Catechism and could recite the Apostles Creed in English and possibly parts of it in Latin. The Angel Gabriel arriving at the annunciation was a powerful fairy-tale.

I had no sympathy for Mary who was to carry this unplanned pregnancy. I was filled with the light of El Greco paintings on Colomban calendars, sermons from a small church in Richmond – Our Lady of Perpetual Succour. And then after abandoning my faith, and travelling for a few years, eventually I married the man I’d been ‘living in sin’ with for almost five years.. and became that very Lady of Perpetual Succour… a wife and mother.

I’m older now, and there are decades between my love of filling stockings at midnight, baking the cake weeks before, writing cards, attending Midnight Mass (merely for nostalgia and now not at all), buying a real Christmas tree, decorating it, making food that will please everyone, and then, finally, realising, that it’s not up to me, and you cannot ever please everyone.

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I no longer weep when Christmas music (Snoopy’s Christmas) comes on the radio. I still dance to the Pogues ‘Fairytale of New York’ because my granddaughter has been dancing to it with me for seven and a half years…

In my life-time, I have celebrated Christmas in Richmond, Nelson, Wellington, Washington DC, Norway (Santa arrived on Christmas eve in the snow), Edinburgh (practically alone), Istanbul (snow again) and Laos.

I’ve experienced joy and disappointment and one of my most memorable gifts was a swimsuit from an Aunt when I was about eight years old – it was covered in Christmas pink bon-bons and had a pink bow placed strategically at the base of the bodice where it flared into a cute skirt – prior to that I’d worn my Mother’s seersucker, over-sized swimsuit (with bra cups that possibly kept me afloat).

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It’s New Year now in our bay. The Pohutakawa next door is flowering. We’re re-united with our son who has been living overseas for ten years. We had a happy Christmas family breakfast and thoughtful inexpensive gifts under the tree. We were almost sitcom material on New Year’s Day with everyone on their best behaviour. Our granddaughter is besotted with her Uncle and we’re all besotted with her.

This year, I want to embrace being human, and to recognise the glorious potential of difference, rather than indifference, the beauty of the individual rather than the duty of togetherness, the magic of family in all its inordinate incarnations.

Old friends and Cape Foulwind

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Old friends and Cape Foulwind

When you’re from Wellington, travelling to Cape Foulwind holds no concern. After all, it’s the West Coast of the South Island, New Zealand, renowned for its weather. You share a bad reputation, it endears you to each other. But, we arrived at our accommodation, the dramatically appointed “Steeples” Cottage, on a calm sunny day. Our splendid front lawn runs right out to the cliff edges overlooking the sea. There’s a garden seat of driftwood under a wind-shaped macrocarpa. There’s also a darling garden of chaotic colour, old-fashioned flowers in full bloom, which belies the wind-shaped trees. And a fence and a child-proof gate at the perimeter, as our hosts have local grandchildren.

View from the cottage

Our modern and well-equipped cottage is named Steeples, because of the superb view from the cottage of the limestone steeple-shaped rocks jutting out of the sea in front of us. The hosts feted us with freshly collected mussels, the fattest, sweetest, we have ever eaten. And then we head to the local pub, just along the road and everyone there appears to be related in some way, either by marriage or birth. We’re served freshly rarely cooked and tender venison morsels, as almost tapas with our beer. Where else? Our fish, when we order it, is grilled Turbot, shaken in flour and crisped just a little with oil and lemon pepper.

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We’re running away. It’s what you do when life serves up parcels of grief. How lucky are we? We could have stayed home and wallowed, but we chose to travel instead. The spirit cannot help but be revived in this rugged landscape. I’d spent five days in Kaikoura with my sister on the trail of family secrets, stunned yet again by the jewel-like aqua of the East Coast sea. It was the first time probably in perhaps 50 years, that we had spent this much time together. We ate scallops as fat as your fist (almost) but missed out on the crayfish as it was the end of the season and the last of the crays were especially expensive. We met a first cousin for the first time. This adds to our collection, having recently found two aunts and an uncle we never knew about and who didn’t know about us either. We talked as sisters do, about our one successful family holiday in Kaikoura, where we hid in the hawthorn hedge and threw plums at passersby. We found the old house, almost unchanged on the corner, parked our car and sat and reminisced.

Kaikoura

Kaikoura

Then, my sister returned to Thames and John joined me. We visited old friends in Nelson, and Lake Brunner, saw the night sky in Tekapo and visited Christchurch. There’s something grounding about old friendships. People who know your story and whose story you know. Friends who forgive you your faults as you forgive them, and the comfort of familiarity. As for Christchurch, I was blown away on the sunny Friday by the sense of renewal and spirit of optimism down by the container shops, and then Saturday dawned grey, cold and sad and I saw the central city spaces in a new and sadder light.

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The beautiful church at Lake Tekapo

The beautiful church at Lake Tekapo

View from inside the church at Lake Tekapo

View from inside the church at Lake Tekapo

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The cliffs at Cape Foulwind

The cliffs at Cape Foulwind

John takes a great photo. So, I’ve decided to share some of his best with you on my blog. While I was travelling, I was reading a very good novel by Coral Atkinson, soon to be launched called ‘Passing Through’ which I am going to review for Beattie’s blog. There’s nothing like a good book to keep you company on a road trip. I also read the short stories of George Saunders, ‘The Tenth of December’ – a much heralded American short-story writer – it took me a while to ‘get’ the voices in his stories, but once I did, I was hooked. ‘The Semplica-Girl Diaries’ both startled, surprised and wowed me. And on my bedside is a new collection from Vincent O’Sullivan that I’ve already dipped into – delicious.

Siem Reap – where I left a part of my heart

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Recently, I spent three months as a volunteer ESOL teacher in Siem Reap, Cambodia. I’ve left a part of my heart behind. Some people said, before I left, what a grubby little tourist town Siem Reap was and that I wouldn’t like it. How wrong could they be? I loved it. I love the red dusty roads that erupt whenever the rain falls; the smell of the Monsoon and dust, the sound of motos, the choreography of traffic, tuk-tuks, motos, cyclists, pedestrians and the occasional big black Lexus.

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I love the resilient spirit of the people of Siem Reap, their optimism, in the face of endless rejection – from the girls on massage lane to the tuk-tuk drivers – always hopeful, up for a chat, and the cries of ‘teacher-teacher’. Where else could I possibly find so much (possibly undeserved) affirmation and respect? I can’t imagine being embraced so affectionately at my local coffee bar back home, nor having my eyes wiped by an attentive waitress (who just happens also to be my student), when I choke on a chilli over dinner. Or to go out alone, and find each time I enter a café, that one of my students is waiting tables there and I’m suddenly the most important customer.

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I loved the one dollar out-door foot massage where I watched endless reruns of the story of Angkor Wat on a large open-air screen… the foot scrub for two dollars, the pedicure that ended up a brighter pink than I chose, and the nail polish that was very poor quality, so the finish was less than smooth, but the effort and focus gone into painting my toes far outweighed the less than perfect outcome.

The people of Siem Reap put their hearts on the line for the tourists. They offer up a piece of themselves for a small price. They work long hours for little return and the tuk-tuk drivers spend more time waiting for customers than they do actually driving anywhere. In the heat of the mid afternoon they sling their hammocks and rest. They are waiting for the balmy evening when the tourists will begin swarming down to Pub Street and maybe they can nab a newcomer and sell them a trip to the temples tomorrow… always tomorrow … the locals here believe in tomorrow in a way that is heart-warming and admirable.

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Madame, you want tuk-tuk, maybe not today, maybe tomorrow, maybe the temples, not today Madame, but tomorrow maybe, you call me, you have my card, tomorrow, tomorrow, I take you to the temples, Madame, Madame…

It’s one sentence, because they anticipate your rejection and already they’re moving with a smile to the next potential customer.

I loved the Old Market, the Night Market (there are several Night Markets) and the food – the food loved me too. I ate the juiciest mangoes I’ve ever tasted, sweet pineapple, longans, dragon fruit, and I never tired of the Khmer vegetable curries and the chilled 50 cent Angkor beers, not to mention the one dollar Margaritas on Soksan Road.

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I found French pastries at the Blue Pumpkin, a designer cupcake café and the New Leaf Book Café where they make the most delicious banana blossom salad while selling second-hand books. And too, minus the food, D’s bookshop (both second-hand and new).

D's Bookshop, Siem Reap

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I admired the ‘flower girl’ as I christened her. The same girl every night, plying her flowers along Pub Street, her witty patter, her sassy street-smarts and who knows, she looked fifteen, but perhaps she was older. I admired too, the young man (whom I decided ran away from the circus), who ran his own one-man-band sort of circus, swallowing fire, and juggling outside the cafés in the balmy evenings, his shiny naked skinny torso and the young boy who made the chocolate banana pancakes with such flair, one hand wiping, the other hand swiping, cooking and cleaning at the same time.

And yes, I stood with all the hundreds of other tourists at dawn, waiting for the sun rise at Angkor Wat.

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But it wasn’t so much about the temples for me, as the local people. I enjoyed a cycling alone to the temples on the school bicycle. The first time I’ve ever cycled close to an elephant or a monkey for that matter. I tried to imagine a quieter time, when the temples were abandoned and overgrown but not with tourists, the eerie mix of nature and man-made stone grandeur, uninhabited.

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One of the highlights for me wasn’t the temples, but the evening I rode pillion on a student’s moto into the balmy late afternoon-straight-into-evening – along the canal to Road 60 for a Khmer-style picnic with one of my classes (barbecued chicken with yummy seasonings from the local roadside stalls) and being one of only a handful of barangs.

As for the circus. If you never do anything else in Siem Reap, go to the Phare Cambodian Circus which describes itself as uniquely Cambodian, daringly modern. Be startled and astonished by the amazing acrobatics, the sheer energy, talent and something else… delight at its best, in its best form – delight from the performers and delight from the audience. This is what I found in Cambodia – you think you’re giving when mostly you are receiving.

But most of all I loved waking at 5.00 am to chase the frogs from the kitchen after the Monsoon and once too, a cheeky rat ran out from behind the portable gas hob. I would make porridge and drink black tea in the make-shift outside dining room. I’d feed the school cat in the hopes she would keep the rat at bay. And then, after gathering my lesson plans, at around 5.50 am each morning, I would pull the shiny yellow curtains in my bedroom open and see my always-early student Phanna, on his moto heading towards the school gates. He never failed me. And soon after, the rest of the class. At 6.00 am the Elementary One class would begin, with the fans going and the doors wide open. I would watch the dawn break as I taught. That moment between dawn and morning, the shifts in colour. Magic. But more than that, the amazing energy and affection that my students rewarded me with. There was no ‘class management’ required, I had rapt attention from hard-working, motivated, interesting and hugely admirable young adults. What more could a teacher ask for?

What I most admired is the extraordinary spirit of my students and all their golden hopes for tomorrow. I felt humbled by their resilience, their hard work, their generosity and their humour. It is hard to imagine a country with such a recent tragic history, where there is such a spirit of optimism.

I’m not forgetting though, there is much more to Cambodia than Siem Reap and my students. I saw the poverty between Siem Reap and Phnom Phen when I took the Giant Ibis bus journey between the two cities the weekend of the water festival. The way people live with their rice crops drying at the side of the road, no fresh running water or electricity, relying on oxen and water buffalo instead of modern-day farming methods. I was reminded of Cuba. I know the Government is corrupt, the recent elections weren’t fair and that people live in abject poverty. I read Joel Brinkley’s ‘Cambodia’s Curse’ before I left for Siem Reap and while I was there. It is without doubt a very sobering account of Cambodia’s history. I know it’s time for Hun Sen to go and democracy to have a fair chance. But somewhere in my heart, I have great hope, if the young people I taught, are an example of what lies ahead.

Art to Heart with Edvard Munch, Gustav Vigeland, El Greco and Picasso

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All of my art experiences, well the ones that have touched my heart, have been more or less accidental. I think it is this stumbling into art which has had the most impact on my life. I didn’t grow up with a specific artistic or literary education, but one of the biggest influences was of course religious art, iconic images from my Catholic childhood. It was astonishing for me as a young woman travelling through Spain in the seventies to step into a chapel in Toledo and find the original El Greco’s which I knew intimately as a child from the Columban Calendars that hung in all good Catholic homes. I had the very good fortune that day to be travelling in a group that included a young Australian priest in training, on temporary leave from the seminary, who took me on a guided tour of the El Greco’s. And, confession, it was many, many years later, in Kalamata, Greece in 2007 that I finally realised, attending a movie on the life of El Greco, that of course, he was ‘The Greek’, and not a Spanish artist after all.
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It is a very fine thing I do believe to uncover these secrets accidentally, rather than academically.
A friend recently emailed me a link to two beautiful images by the artist Edvard Munch… ‘The Madonna’ and ‘The Voice’ and

Edvard Munch

Edvard Munch

Edvard Munch

Edvard Munch

interestingly, the poems written by Munch about these paintings (from a book by Bente Torjusen – The Words and Images of Edvard Munch which is copyright, or I’d include the poems on this blog). The poems are exquisite – unnecessary you could say, for what is art, but a visual not verbal experience… but beautiful as well, because the lines of the poems are expressed in different colours (the mind of an artist). It reminded me of my first encounter with Edvard Munch, in Oslo, January 1973. I was on my way to taking up a job as a waitress in the Haukeli Mountains and staying in Oslo at a youth hostel. I found Munch and Vigeland. They’re pretty hard to miss in a small city the size of Oslo. It was snowing too, that much I remember. I was in love then with all things Norwegian and still hold huge affection in my heart for that time in my life. It was here I first learned to ski and to haltingly speak snippets of another language.

Gustav Vigeland sculpture

Gustav Vigeland sculpture


In Paris in 1997, with my youngest son who back then was just fifteen, together we literally stumbled upon the Picasso Museum. We had just previously laboured our way through the great halls of the Louvre in search of the Mona Lisa, almost running through a room of Rubens – so overwhelming was the art experience that we couldn’t take it in.

This delightful accident, the Picasso Museum, remains an unforgettable art experience both the intimacy of the setting, the sharing of it with my son and the lack of expectation enabling a true heart to art experience. I purchased this poster advertising an exhibition which now hangs in our bathroom and the other is a print which hangs in our bedroom.Poster from Picasso MuseumPrint Purchased from Picasso Museum

Years ago, when my children were preschoolers, and we didn’t have a lot of money to decorate our humble Edwardian villa in Brooklyn (not New York, but Wellington), I used to drive my olive-green Mini down to the Wellington library and fill the boot with art for hire. It was a lot of fun and a cheap way to dress our house and the great advantage being you never got bored as you just took the picture back and got another one. These were reproductions such as Vermeer’s ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’ and Van Gogh’s ‘Bedroom in Arles’ but oh the joy racing through the Louvre to see the Vermeer original. I know, I know, they’re practically clichés, but they looked lovely on our wall.

At primary school in the fifties, one of my most humbling experience was being part of a team in class where you had to run to the front of the room and draw something – my task was to draw a hand – all I had to do was place my hand on the blackboard and draw around it to get a fairly reasonable image – but I didn’t have the confidence or imagination for that, and instead I froze at the board mortified, unable to even decide how many fingers a single hand held. It’s one of those frozen moments of life that you never forget. My own version of ‘The Scream’. Nowadays, I teach English as a second language and I find being unable to draw a big advantage – I have no shame and I attempt to draw and the students laugh and through their laughter they name the object that I have so poorly tried to represent – you see my lack of shame unlocks their language.

My friend has reminded me of my introduction to Edward Munch, my astonishment and attraction to ‘The Scream’ before I knew it was a famous painting, and too, of the joy of Frognor Park, my very first up close encounter with stone brought to life. Coming from New Zealand in the early 70’s I was too, a teeny bit startled by so much public nude abandonment (even in stone)… I loved the girl with the flying hair and now I am a grandmother, and I see my granddaughter, her plaits flying as she dances for me in our garden.

From Maleme to Mapua

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I was inspired to think about this seemingly random link after reading a poem. The poem is called “Alive together” and it is by Lisel Mueller. The poem begins thus:
Speaking of marvels, I am alive
together with you, when I might have been
alive with anyone under the sun,
The poet goes on to imagine being a woman in a different time, married to different men, the idea of who we are being both random and minutely specific to a multitude of histories. I like this poem and I have recently been reading ‘Crete – The Battle and the Resistance”’ by Anthony Beevor. It is a very good account of a fearsome battle for control of the island in Greece during the Second World War, told from many sides of the story, the Germans, the New Zealanders, the British and the Cretans. My Dad was in the 5th field Regiment, a gunner, in the New Zealand 22nd Battalion defending the airport at Maleme, the point at which strategically the battle was lost, when it should have been won.

The German graveyard at Maleme

The German graveyard at Maleme

Stone crosses on the hillside among the graves at Maleme

Stone crosses on the hillside among the graves at Maleme

The graveyard at Maleme of German paratroopers killed in the battle of Crete

The graveyard at Maleme of German paratroopers killed in the battle of Crete

If, they say, General Freyberg had not been so hell-bent on the idea of a seaborne invasion… if Colonel Andrew (according to Beevor), “had gone forward before nightfall to observe the coastal trip and the western slopes of Hill 107…” … so many ifs. I imagine too, if they’d all had I phones, perhaps a few texts to and fro with some pictures attached… but then too, it seems Freyberg was very concerned about revealing to the Germans that the Brits had cracked their code, and so I guess I phones can easily be hacked . And too, imagine instead of young men dropping from the sky (like Icarus) in their parachutes, if instead, the Germans had used drones. The account of hand to hand combat between the Germans, local Cretans and the Kiwis is fierce and brutal. It seems that the Geneva convention did not apply as far as the Cretans were concerned. They were civilians defending their own patch. Oddly, the Germans imagined that the Kiwi soldiers would not fire upon them as they descended in their multi-coloured parachutes. But of course they did. And I have it first hand from my Dad, how extraordinary it was, to be firing at such easy targets, but too, how sickening. I read in Beevor’s account, how the gunners were told to aim low at the falling body because of the rapid descent, thus ensuring an accurate hit.

New Zealand graves at Suda Bay

New Zealand graves at Suda Bay

Suda Bay cemetery where the Kiwi soldiers lie

Suda Bay cemetery where the Kiwi soldiers lie

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But in spite of this, the battle was won by the Germans, although they suffered extraordinary casualties. The paratroopers were young men (the German elite), some as young as sixteen and thousands were slaughtered in the first two days of the battle. So, what brings me to me Mapua? What is my connection? It is really rather random as I mention at the start (but then you see, don’t you, how random all of our histories really are).

Mapua wharf with the ferry that crosses to my favourite childhood beach, Rabbit Island

Mapua wharf with the ferry that crosses to my favourite childhood beach, Rabbit Island

Ruby Bay

Ruby Bay

Ruby Bay

Ruby Bay

I was reading about the Battle of Crete, perched on the seafront at Ruby Bay (a hop skip and a jump from Mapua where I drank my morning coffee and had these thoughts) and I realised that if the 5th Field Regiment had held the airfield, I may not have existed. The defence of Maleme would have required a further battle – my Dad instead of retreating might have died in the ensuing violence – or so I told myself under the hot Tasman sun. That he survived to be taken POW and then shipped on cattle trains to Poland to spend four years as a POW – not to mention the subsequent 600 mile march in snow at the end of the war … well, that is neither here nor there, because this is what happened and so I know he survived all of this. But too, at each step along the way, there are a multitude of ifs to consider.

And as a result of my father’s war experience, I am fascinated with Greece, with the Battle of Crete, and too, I am ‘alive together with you, and you, and you (my family, my friends, my readers)… and there’s something both thrilling and fateful about this very being alive. If the chance came, would you change your life, be an entirely different person? As a child I used to look at people and try to imagine what it might be like to be them and then be terrified that I had wished too hard and what if I did become them and I didn’t like it and then I couldn’t get me back. Whatever befalls us, we may wish it had not, but do we ever really want not to be ourselves? Perhaps some people do (and here one can imagine a child in the slums of Mumbai). I am currently reading ‘Behind the beautiful forevers’ by Katherine Boo. Yes, perhaps if I was atop a rubbish dump, scavenging for a living, I may well be happy for my wish to be granted… but thankfully in my own fortunate life … it is enough to be ‘alive and together’ …
the poem ends thus:

alive with our lively children
who — but for endless ifs —
might have missed out on being alive
together with marvels and follies
and longings and lies and wishes
and error and humor and mercy
and journeys and voices and faces
and colors and summers and mornings
and knowledge and tears and chance.

Isn’t it just a grand poem? I have Diana Gilliland Wright of Firesteel to thank for her blog which alerted me to this beautiful poem and of course, if you wish to read the entire poem, click this link to Firesteel.

Cona coffee and a club sandwich, please

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We were talking last night about food fashions.    I recalled how back in the late seventies, the height of cool for us, in our wee Brooklyn apartment (Wellington, not New York), was cracked pepper pâté on Vogel toast – yum – Friday night, after a week at work, and then home to an easy dinner.   Dead cool, delicious and yes, high fibre toast and something as exotic as pâté.    Well, you might smile.   But you may not have grown up in the 50’s when the closest thing to high-fibre bread was a ‘brown loaf’ or Nu-soy bread and pâté well…

It reminded me of an essay I wrote back in the nineties about the changing face of New Zealand cuisine, and how the tables had turned (so to speak) from the early 70’s when we lived in Norway, to the 1990’s, when our Norwegian friends came to visit us in New Zealand.

Cona coffee and a club sandwich, please

We came back from our OE in the mid seventies armed with our Moulineaux – a smart, European sounding and superior coffee-making machine.  It worked by filtering freshly ground coffee beans through a sort of blotting paper and we added mustard and salt to add flavour and flair.   We were sophisticated travellers who now knew how to make real coffee.  We’d learned in London about milky instant coffee and in Norway about brewing coffee on a stove, but our Moulineaux was an advance on all of these options. We even purchased a Spong coffee grinder (think of your mother’s meat mincer) so we could startle our friends with freshly ground coffee beans.

Growing up in small-town New Zealand, our first taste of coffee had been Gregg’s chicory essence followed by Gregg’s instant.  And then there was the subversive Dutchman who opened a dimly lit coffee bar in Richmond, replete with candles burning in Chianti bottles and coffee was over-brewed into the wee small hours (probably as late as ten in the evening) in a Cona Coffee pot with a mysterious glass stopper.

In the eighties as world travellers, we would cross the Tasman for our cappuccino and marvel at the hot froth, delighted by the dusting of cinnamon or chocolate.  Choosing between cinnamon or chocolate on your cappuccino, being one of the defining moments of trans Tasman travel, back then.

And gradually (or was it all of a sudden?)…  the coffee industry began to infiltrate (excuse the pun) New Zealand.   People abandoned their cups of tea for coffees and the options began to grow.    You could still buy Cona coffee, and you could enjoy filter coffee of various varieties, but now the cappuccino was gaining favour.   And another competitor entered the scene – the plunger!    People argued in favour of and against the plunger.   People argued about the size of the grounds required for plunger versus filter coffee.

Cafes came and went – as good as their last lukewarm latte.   We marvelled at the flat white and debated the difference.

A cappuccino was now passé.  The latte bowl was in.   People sat in cafes all over New Zealand worshiping a white bowl of not too frothy froth.  It took two hands to hold and it required concentration and a teaspoon if you wanted to make sure you got your money’s worth.   People, who normally had good manners, could be seen spooning coffee from enormous white bowls, their noses no longer powdered with cinnamon or chocolate, but possibly dipped in spume.

Then somehow, when we weren’t looking, chocolate crept into the equation.  Peopled nonchalantly ordered moccachino’s and worse than that…decaffeinated flat whites…   Even barristers cringed at this new fad.  What was the point of coffee without the caffeine?

And then, from out of the blue, we had word from our friends in Norway that finally, after thirty odd years, they were coming to visit us.  When we first left home in the seventies and lived in Norway, we were gob-smacked by the variety of food and the taste of coffee in Europe.   And so, we couldn’t wait to show them our beautiful mountains and we hoped, some authentic kiwi fodder.

We set out on our journey to the South Island on the fast ferry (normally crossing Cook Strait on a ferry guarantees you a look at authentically awful Kiwi food) – but fashion had overtaken us and the food was passable even quite good.   It reminded us of the food we had eaten on the hydrofoils in Norway thirty years ago – salad sandwiches and pastries.   But we still had high hopes of finding the real thing.

In Blenheim we visited the vineyards and our Norwegian friends were astonished at the variety and quality of our wines.   We recalled working in the mountains in Norway serving European wines, most of which we had never heard of before.  Many of the guests were wealthy oil and shipping magnates from Haugesund and Stavanger.  The most popular dinner wine was Egri Bikaver (which means bulls blood and has something to do with the Turks, the Ottomans, and Hungary) and for the wealthier (oil and shipping) guests the prestigious (we’d never heard of it back then) Châteauneuf de Pape…

Thirty years later, we watched, as our Norwegian friends sat, eyes closed, breathing in a Mudhouse Sauvignon as if it were the equal or more exotic than Egri Bikaver.

We ate in Nelson and almost drowned in haute cuisine.    But still we hopes.   We would seek out the club sandwich, the mini mince pie and the chocolate éclair.   We were determined to enlighten our Norwegian friends.

Instead, on the West Coast, we ate whitebait patties the size of dinner plates at a salmon farm and even our take-away pizza at Fox Glacier was edible.  The glacier rated, even with our Norwegian friends who were awed by the rapid movement forward of the glacier, the accessibility and the pretty, but dirty blue of the snow.

Then, driving through the Haast, hubby and I marvelled at the uncanny prehistoric canvas that enveloped us, while our Norwegian friends slept in the back of the car, sated, resting, and ready for the next gourmet experience.   Which, as it happened was not that far away, when we found Saffron in Arrowtown and although the mains (minus vegetables) were thirty-five dollars each and upwards, our Norwegian friends (converting the kroner to NZ dollar) didn’t even blink or notice that we did.  Leaving Otago, we popped into the Gibbston Valley vineyard…

The Gibbston Valley Pinot was the Eiffel Tower and the Prado rolled into one as far as we could tell from the glazed and glorious expressions on our guests’ faces.    They slept through the Lindis Pass and missed a moving feast of Graham Sydney landscapes.  I think, but cannot be absolutely certain, they did glimpse Mt Cook, but possibly they slept through this, digesting and resting.  We headed for Christchurch and out to Banks Peninsula.   At Little River, the old store had burned down and a new and modern tin shed had risen from the ashes and instead of just oversized pumpkins and Swandris, we found doormats made of river stones that even Aucklanders would drool over.

We set off for Akaroa, imagining their awe at Onawe, and instead they discovered Barry’s Cheese Factory.  Please, please, no more – our stomachs groaned, but our Norwegian friends were amazed.   We couldn’t convince them that when they first met us, our most exotic cheese experience was smoked cheddar quarters in foil wrap.   We had been impressed with the goat’s cheeses in Norway back then – the peanut butter colour of them – the textures and flavours, the sheer range of cheeses… not to mention the awful smelling gammel ost (literally “old cheese) housed in a glass cover to keep the pungent smell at bay.

And then Akaroa in all its French quaintness invited us in.   We stayed with an old sailing friend who had restored a French Colonial historic home to former glory and planted hundreds of roses.  Each bathroom basin adorned with a freshly picked rose, themed bedrooms and, dare I say it, European, exotic… our Norwegian friends were delighted and so were we, but we had hoped for a small colonial cottage with no frills, or at the very least, a Spartan L-shaped motel with candlewick bedspreads.

Dinner was yet another taste-bud extravaganza on the waterfront with a roaring fire and endless good wine and food.  It wasn’t that we really minded, it was just we wanted them to know how bad it had been – and we had hoped to find some remnant…some shreds of evidence of a former civilization when the pubs closed at six pm, and people ate our for the first time on their twenty-first birthday at the local hotel…where the menu might have said roast lamb, or roast something…when dessert might have been Pavlova and when the best wine might well have been a very sweet German Riesling (even a green Nun would have done).

Breakfast at our B & B (no over-fried bacon and rubbery eggs) was fresh salmon or poached eggs with hollandaise…and yet another rose.

And so, we hoped and prayed that our favourite South Island town Kaikoura would not let us down.   It was November and it snowed, and the sun shone and we rocketed from almost sub-zero temperatures to almost mid summer.    We booked the White Morph, determined to give our Norwegian friends a truly memorable and authentically New Zealand experience but instead of authentic Kaikoura old-style crayfish in newspaper from Nin’s roadside bin …we were in for another gourmet treat, courtesy of the White Morph’s new chef.      We were thwarted once again and our friends were now convinced that we had been keeping New Zealands’s fine cuisine and amazing wines a secret for thirty-odd years.  The roadside cray bins weren’t selling crays that day…it seemed their catch had all gone to the restaurants.

We tried to explain about the New Zealand roast, the Cona coffee, the lamingtons and the pies…but they didn’t believe us…  They left New Zealand promising to return…but not for the scenery…  they had vineyards in their sights, and they hadn’t tasted our oysters or scallops yet…

It was weird to think how sophisticated Norway had seemed back then and to see now, how sophisticated and “European” New Zealand had become. How exciting it had been to pour European wines and eat from the smörgåsbord for breakfast and lunch.  Pickled herrings, smoked and hung and dried meats, and at lunch-time after skiing in the morning, a Pilsner.   And, now New Zealand was afloat with boutique breweries and we couldn’t even extol the virtues of Pilsner, or their extra strong (with a health warning) Christmas beer Jule øl .

We laughed about the fried egg joke – which was the meal that any good hotelier in Norway would place on the bar while you drank your beer (the law said you had to eat when you drank)…and then put away again, uneaten, for the next guest.   Of course with our six o’clock swill still a recent memory, we hadn’t thought too much about this.   But, now our friends from Norway were astonished, and delighted that we could take wine with a picnic to the Botanical Gardens in Wellington and enjoy the summer evening concerts without getting arrested.

Norway doesn’t even make wine (not unless you count the rosé, that we used to drink made from old jams at Easter time by Bestemor (Grandma) at the hotel we worked at – it kicked a fair punch indeed, was a gorgeous colour and texture, but hardly Ata Rangi), and in thirty years, we’ve gone from Villa Maria Rejoa by the flagon, to prize-winning Pinot Noir from Otago; from Velutto Rosso in a cardboard box (not bad in mulled wine), to endless choices in a bottle… from corks to screw tops.

It was odd, but I still hoped we’d find a little café with over-brewed coffee, sausage rolls, and prize of all prizes, a carefully cut, lovingly filled, slightly soggy, cheese and pineapple club sandwich.

Tolstoy and the Chambermaid

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Tolstoy and the Chambermaid

Forty years ago, I was the chambermaid reading War and Peace in the beautiful Haukeli Mountains in Telemark, Norway.  It’s quite a big book really, and the reason I became absorbed was two-fold.   First of all, I couldn’t speak Norwegian very well, and the book became my companion on my work breaks, something to engage in when I couldn’t hold a conversation.    Secondly, I had purchased a number of literary classics on my classic Kiwi “OE “ while living and working in London, Newcastle, Manchester, and Edinburgh –  as part of my literary self-education.  Now here I was in Norge reading Tolstoy surrounded by snow, metres deep on the sides of the road … the perfect setting.   Even you might say, as close to Russia as a Kiwi girl could imagine being at that time in my life.    A couple of years later, I was on a train in Finland that stopped right on the Russian Finnish border and we (my now husband and I) were arrested for taking photographs as we walked towards the Russian border.   And that is still as close as I have been, but I do dream one day of actually getting there.

I fell in love with Vagslid, a most enchanting area which includes the Vagslid Vatn (lake) and beautiful mountains.   I learned to ski here, at first unable to even stand on skis on the flat, and then eventually able to set off alone, to traverse the frozen and snow-covered lake, to climb and ski to places with magical names like Fossen, Langasae, Åmlinuten.        I was a chambermaid and a waitress and Norway was newly rich.   I knew very little about waiting tables but I knew how to make hospital corners when making beds.  I’d learned this the previous winter in Edinburgh working at the North British Hotel during the Edinburgh festival.   But I didn’t need to know so much about hospital corners in Norway, as they had duvet (dyne) bedding which back then was quite a novelty for me.   My Norwegian language skills developed in an ad-hoc way with quite a lot of Danish imellem (in-between).   The wife of the manager of the hotel was Danish and many of the young women who worked alongside of me were also Danish – I assumed we were all talking Norwegian! My very first Norwegian phrase that I learned to say off by heart,  was Vil du være så snill å våkne meg i morgen which translates as “Would you be so kind as to wake me in the morning” (travelling as I was sans alarm clock and possibly back then, sans watch).

I plan some day to re-read War and Peace because it is such a long time since the first reading in my very early 20’s.  I’m sure that a re-reading will reward.  My hope is that I am en-route to Russia when I do this so that I can inhabit not only the pages but the real landscape.     I’ve just been reading a book to review which is based in my favourite city, Wellington.   Someone I was talking to recently, said that they love Wellington because you are constantly in touch with and aware of the elements.  The book that I was reading milked all of these elements for atmosphere and to convey somehow the mental collapse of one of the characters.  I liked the weather, perhaps even more than I liked the characters in the book.  But it struck me that as readers we inhabit so many physical landscapes in our imagination and when we encounter a landscape we know, it is doubly exciting, if done well.

Here is a recent photo of the snow at Vagslid where I spent three winters and one summer, the first winter by myself and the next two winters and one summer with John.   We have some terrific photos of our own, but mostly they are old-fashioned slides which we need to convert.

Together our greatest skiing triumph was the return trip through mostly virgin snow from Vagslid to Saesnuten and back (if I recall correctly approximately a 40 kilometre round trip). Here is a poem I wrote inspired by Vagslid.

Cross Country

From Hogmanay to Hauklisetter
the Telemark Waters once liquid
solidify
I learned to ski, instead
of love
Carol King’s earth moved
Under my feet, the frozen
possibilities
assumed a shape, snow on
ice, ice on water
Boats upturned lay lost
til summer
Fossen was a destination
and destiny
a frozen fragment
I followed reindeer
tracks, when I
might have followed you

And here is, a photograph of my battered copy of ‘War and Peace’ a Christmas present to myself as you will see from the inscription I have written, in Edinburgh, Christmas, 1972.

This was my very first Christmas without family, and as I seem to recall, without flat-mates either, as I think they’d all escaped back to the Scottish Highlands or Europe for the festive season.

Tolstoy was my consolation and he travelled with me to Norway.   Thinking of War and Peace I was reminded of the amazing spirit of the Norwegian  people recently when they gathered in Youngstorget Square, 40,000 of them, to sing ‘Children of the Rainbow’ to celebrate multiculturalism in defiance of Anders Behring Breivik.

Autumn, Anzac Day and Gerard Manley Hopkins

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Autumn, Anzac Day and Gerard Manley Hopkins

Where we live, in the bush, by the sea, autumn for me is the best time of year.   We moved to our house on the hill in autumn twenty something years ago, and it was the still air, the mellow sunshine, and the leaves dropping in the garden, that captured our hearts.   The harbour is quieter this time of year, calling us to kayak.    The cicadas have ceased their courtships and the wasps are out, lured by the Easter spices.   I’m affected by the light, the warmth, the sense of peace that only autumn seems to bring.

And then, it is Anzac Day and the brass band, the bagpipes and the haunting bugle, bring another layer of nostalgia peculiar to my Kiwi childhood, that lovely in-between season thing where summer has ended, but winter hasn’t yet begun.    I ran behind my granddaughter today on our nature walk, she was wearing a hand-knitted cardigan in strawberry, aqua and bluish hues.  I watched her back running through the bush collecting special sticks so we could block the creek further up the hill.  When she snuggled for a cuddle I could smell shampoo and wool and the damp soft mud beneath our feet.  I bought her a poppy to wear on Wednesday and she loves red.  We looked for the toadstools we’d seen the week before, and mourned their loss, wondering what had happened to them.

I was reminded of this beautiful poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins that I only encountered late in life studying English Literature at Victoria University when I was 50, and indeed, I used a line or two of this poem in my first novel ‘About turns’.

          “Spring and Fall” (1880)   Gerard Manley Hopkins

 To a young child

Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you will weep know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow’s springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

My granddaughter and I will meet outside the local school on Anzac morning.   Then we will march alongside the war veterans (there cannot be many left, but perhaps from the Vietnam War), and I will be stirred by the music on two counts.  One because I was a marching girl in the 50’s and 60’s and two because I’ve always followed the Anzac Parade, to see my Dad in his shiny and freshly polished shoes, wearing his war medals that Mum would stitch temporarily on to his suit, so they hung straight.  Now I have his medals and his Crete badge and his small barbed wire pin, remnants of his war efforts.   Perhaps this year I will wear them.   When he was alive, and after I was married with a family, he would sometimes come and stay with us and we would do the Dawn Parade in Wellington and then our own local parade.   We couldn’t get enough of it.   Nowadays, I just do the local parade and adjourn to the RSA for the home-made pikelets, sausage rolls and cups of tea, followed by an obligatory beer with my friends and we toast my Dad.     This will be my first Anzac Parade with my granddaughter.

In 2002, I travelled with my husband to Greece and to Crete to retrace my father’s war journey and to Poland where he spent four years as a prisoner of war.   I wrote about it and the story was published in the New Zealand Listener.  Regrettably, I inadvertently wrote of Stalag VIIB instead of Stalag VIIIB, and neither the Listener nor I picked it up before it went to print.

Here is a link to the story: Looking for Curly

What prompted this post about Anzac Day is one of my favourite blogs Surprised by Time.and on reading this blog I found more information about where my Dad might have been on mainland Greece, before arriving at Suda Bay for the Battle of Crete.     This is part one of a two-part blog that includes excerpts from New Zealand and Australian veterans of the Greek campaign, both on mainland Greece and Crete. It is well worth reading.

A Broken Heart

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Please Look After Mother

I usually read with my head.    Books that try to claim my heart, frequently meet with my resistance.   I like to second-guess an author if they are trying to make me weep, feel sad, or to tug at my emotions.  The books that seduce me are mostly darkly funny to mask their sadness.   I loved ‘The Forgotten Waltz’ by Anne Enright; I like her writing, the wicked way she carves into your heart through your head.          We bring to our reading so much of ourselves, both our past selves and the now.    My youngest son lives in Seoul, is married to a Korean girl and has through marriage, become part of a Korean family.  I have visited Seoul now three times and I love the city and the people and most especially of course, my son’s wife and her family.    Add to the mix, that I am almost 62, the same age that my mother was when she died.     Then one more ingredient.   I am in Sydney on a short holiday, which is where I was working forty years ago, when my Aunt phoned to say ‘come home’ your mother has had a heart attack.

So, perhaps I am predisposed at this particular time, for this particular book that has just won the Man Asia Literary Prize Please Look After Mother by Kyung Sook Shin translated from Korean by Chi-Young Kim.    I found it heart-breaking.    Almost from the start, my heart was breaking.   It is such a superbly simple, yet deeply affecting novel.    I’m not sure if it is because the book is in translation that the writer is so easily able to transgress, to override, to ignore my self-erected emotional barriers.

I cried easily and without self censure.   It is a beautiful story, made all the more affecting because of the shifting perspectives in each chapter, as the family set out to find their mother, lost at Seoul Railway Station.    Seoul is one of the most modern, populated cities in the world today.   The mother in this novel who has always walked a few steps behind her husband, fails to get on to the train and it’s only after the train has left the station that he realises she is not on it.   We get to hear from her children and from her husband how they see their mother, now that she is missing as they comb the train stations, hand out flyers, and revisit parts of Seoul they lived in years ago, where she might have gone looking for them.

The first voice is her daughter, now a feted and famous author and she recalls spontaneously going to visit her mother one day after one of her novels is translated into Braille and she had read to a group of blind people.    She buys an octopus and visits her mother.  It is the blending of food, train stations, cultural customs, convention, tradition and modernity that makes this book sing.   Yes, I admit, I found even the names of places enchanting, because I recognised them, newly recognised them, and felt a connection.    My son is fortunate to have the loving affection of his wife’s family and because he is vegetarian, when he visits his mother-in-law, she prepares all his favourite foods with delicious meat substitutes, pampers him, mothers him, and as his mother back in New Zealand, I feel deep gratitude for this.    So, yes, I am the perfect candidate for this book, I recognise that.

When my mother died, I was young and travelling; just back from living in London and now in Australia, doing my own thing.  I didn’t want to go home when she had her heart attack.  In fact, after I received the phone call from my aunt, I waited another two days until I received an urgent ‘come now’ and I abandoned my job and flat on the very same day to fly home.  I still recall the mad rush to gather my belongings (modest thankfully) from a flat on the North Shore and the taxi driver in New Zealand when I arrived, eschewing my attempts to tip him as he carried my heavy suitcase for me.   But I was resistant, callow and self-interested, unable to really give my mother my full attention, even when she was dying.   This book explores those very themes through the eyes of the children of the mother lost at Seoul Station.  They explore their memories of their mother, their last encounter with her.

And so, here I was in Sydney again after many years, catching up with a friend with whom I had flatted in London in 1972.  I was in a cheap but modest Pensione on George Street.   Across from Central Station is the strange-shaped Dental Hospital building where it was I worked when I received the phone call about my mother.   I rode the trains reading this novel, and now the doors on the trains close automatically, but back then, I rode the trains in the hot summer and the doors never closed.   My heart was in several places at one time.   I was in Sydney now and back then; I was in London, I was in love, I was all over the place, warmed by the Sydney sun and completely disarmed by this evocative novel.

Kyung-Sook Shin manages to incorporate with subtlety, the extraordinary history of South Korea , from poverty to extreme modernity in sixty years, without being particularly political or weighty posturing.    I recently readBruce Cumings ‘The Korean War’ which is heart-breaking in a different and more factual way, and gives insight into the plight of the North Korean people both during the war and after – ‘the oceans of napalm’ dropped on the North by the United States and read that during the Korean war, four million Koreans were killed, two thirds of them civilians.   So, yes, Korea, both the North and the South have an extraordinary recent and mostly untold history.

I have only one small quibble with the novel and perhaps that is the ending.  But that too may reflect something of my prejudice and predisposition.   I won’t spoil the ending, but I felt it was perhaps too overtly symbolic, but still, a very small quibble.   The translation isn’t always perfect either but somehow for me that lent authenticity to the text, so that I knew it was a translation and I wished that I could read Korean, to see the words in their original context.  I wondered would they be more, or less, sentimental from a native speaking perspective.

Please Look After Mother broke my heart a little and it was lovely to have it broken.   I can see why it is a best-seller.   But too, I can see how this review from the New York Times was written with a more cynical and critical reading – yes, I can see this point of view, but this time, I left my head and followed my heart, and that’s okay, it’s only fiction. It seems the book has also been translated as Please Look After Mom  and that evidently sealed its fate for many, as a piece of sentimental fiction – the whole ‘Mom’ thing.   I guess this also goes to show, how much of ourselves we bring to our reading.

A Grain of Rice

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(I wrote this, after my first brief visit to China, back in 2007, before I had a blog).

China was not part of our original itinerary but we were planning to visit Seoul and it’s just a hop, skip and a jump to Beijing.  It seemed silly not to take the leap.

I’d imagined grey sky, smog, and a reckless juggernaut of capitalism.   Well, the smog proved true, and the capitalist invasion is too.   But  grey, Beijing is not. All over the city are parks and carefully cultivated gardens.   The Forbidden City is a riot of colour.  In Tiananmen Square, Mao’s portrait looked far more benign than I’d imagined.   I wanted to join the large queue moving slowly to view his embalmed body, but we didn’t have time.

They’re preparing for the Olympics with a clock counting down and in the Square there is a topiary Acropolis which will no doubt impress the Olympic tourists.  What are they planning to do about the smog?   It seems they will shut down the factories for three months before the Olympics and ban cars from the city. Many of the factories are owned by European car manufacturers.   We heard that there were three million cars in Beijing (I don’t know who counts them) but yes, the air was more like a good meal than a mild refreshment.    I’m more concerned about the athletes making it in one piece to the Olympic Stadium – you see the traffic is unforgiving and unrelenting.  A green light to a pedestrian means very little to the traffic.   You need either an enormous bravado (he who dares wins, or dies) or else you need to gather a large group of people with yourself in the middle, before you cross the road.

It was easy to imagine how beautiful the city would have seemed without all these cars and with people riding their bicycles dressed in their Mao pyjamas.   For just a moment, I wanted to see that.    But then I thought about the fate of the sparrows and the intellectuals.  I asked our tour guide, Mark about his family.    His father had been a schoolteacher.  I questioned him about his father’s life.   Mark went quiet.   “So-so”, he said.   And that was that.  He had no wish to say any more.

Nothing in Mark’s commentary about the history of this beautiful city, mentioned what is now perceived in the west, as Mao’s reign of terror (otherwise known as … The Great Leap Forward).   Everything was carefully worded to exclude any criticism.   Here is a city embracing capitalism with a capital “C” and yet still somehow honouring Mao.

This is not an in-depth tour of China but more of a tourist’s overview.  A highlight is our walk along the Great Wall.  We’re most fortunate to be on a section of the wall with not a lot of tourists and because we are reasonably fit we manage to burn off our Chinese fan club (yes literally, they walk beside you and fan you because of the heat) and end up alone, just the two of us walking until we meet a guard with his mobile phone who prevents us from going any further, because that section of the wall is unsafe.   Many (many) years ago in Form One (Intermediate School), I gave a speech to my class on The Great Wall of China.   I cannot recall why I chose this topic or indeed, what I spoke of, but it is an extraordinary feeling to be actually walking on the wall, something back then that I had never imagined.

We catch the overnight train to Xian from Beijing to marvel at the Terracotta Warriors and find ourselves cycling around this beautiful walled city, almost eating the air.  Yes, to quote my son after his first trip to India (a place he fell in love with) the air was as thick as wasabi on a wafer.   I want to peel back the pollution to uncover this ancient city, its clouded beauty.  If I cup my hands, I am certain I can catch a piece of air and hold it.

Our next stop is Shanghai, a city vivid in my imagination.  My dreams are of the Bund as it had been without the spectacular high-rise development on the other side of the river (Pudong) and so I am disappointed.   But we have a taste of what might have been old Shanghai in a historic teahouse looking out through a tangle of overhead wires.

It is October and we are there to witness the national celebration of  the People’s Republic of China. Cars are banned from the city centre and The Bund for three nights.   It truly happens, causing stress to unsuspecting tourists in mid city hotels who have planned to catch taxis to connecting flights or trains.  The streets throng with Chinese (one child) families enjoying themselves – no liquor – no violence – just a swell of families and innocent pleasure – in contrast to the screaming neon along the waterfront;  although they are quite beautiful too.  And then on the third evening of celebrations, we look up at a clear blue sky.   So, it is possible!    Maybe by the time all those highly trained athletes arrive in Beijing, the air there will be clear.   What will happen to all the industry that is shut down?  It is hard to imagine.    But noting how obedient the traffic in Shanghai is in obeying the ban, I am heartened.

            Flying out of Shanghai heading towards Athens, on Lufthansa, I sit next to an enthusiastic Chinese travel agent.   She is sitting in my allotted seat, but I don’t have the heart to complain, as she is so excited having just swapped seats with another travel agent to sit by the window.  She confides in me this is her first overseas flight.   She expresses her disappointment at the lack of “uniformity” of the Lufthansa hostesses who are all wearing similar coloured casual but not matching outfits.    The meal arrives and we have to choose between hot noodles in a carton or cheese and salad on a bread roll.  My new friend chooses the bread roll because she tells me she wants to try everything.  She asks me, holding up her bread roll “Is this the cheese that makes you fat?”  Before I can reply, she is waving to the hostess and has swapped her roll for noodles.   We talk about food and waste and living in China.   She tells me when she was a young girl her Mother said they must not waste a single grain of rice because if every person in China wasted one grain of rice, each day…  the mountain of rice grows before my eyes.  I ask about her parents and Mao, and she explains that it had not been easy for her parents growing up under Mao.  At this point her voice changes, just like Mark our tour guide’s had. It’s a tone that implies that they understand but we don’t. ‘Difficult” she says, and then so I won’t get the wrong impression, she adds, “Mao meant well”.

The European car manufacturers say they mean well too, producing low-cost cars in China.  I heard one such manufacturer bragging on television about how cheaply they could reproduce their brand in China.

I imagine the mountain of rice and the mountain of cars, growing side by side.