Bloggers return – some of the balls I was juggling have now rolled down-hill metaphorically, others I’m still tossing in the air, and catching.
In spite of the wonderful messages received when I bowed out, I had begun to sink into a little pit of my own making in which it seemed arrogant to expect other bloggers to read my writings… in fact, I suddenly lost confidence in myself.
But as time has passed, to my amazement, people are still reading my blog, and clicking on likes and follows, and some blogger friends have sent messages of support and comfort, so I’ve taken the plunge again, and am returning to the joy of blogging.
I’ve comfortable now with the fact that this will only ever be a little boutique blog, as it were, and I will never again (I think) become hooked on the ups and downs of stats! So back to the joy of writing for its own sake and the fellowship of bloggers … who I’ve continued to read.
I’m sitting at my desk which is just by the French doors onto the veranda. When I look up, I see the turquoise sea framed by the red blossoms of the pohutakawa tree at this time of the year, and watch the fishing boats chug out to sea. The veranda itself is fringed with the fresh green leaves of white wisteria which grows around the outside. In spring the long white racemes perfume the veranda, and now, the scent of a datura at the bottom of the wilderness part of the garden, reaches my desk.
This long room stretches the width of the house, so that when I go to the other side of the house, and open the French doors at that end, the ravishing smell of the queen of the night pervades the front garden. Especially when it rains.
As I write, a shining cuckoo is singing its piercingly sweet song, and a thrush, now relieved of the cares of parenthood, and forsaking the empty nest in the honeysuckle by the garage door, is warbling joyfully somewhere near the oak tree. And the sound of water is the background to their song as waves break on the rocks below.
It’s that peaceful lull after all the hustle and business leading up to Christmas. The tail end of a cyclone has passed through, leaving us with drenched gardens – but clear bright skies and sparkling blue sea. The orcas I had seen came back and a pod of six, including two babies, took over the next bay, chasing a swimming dog, and going “ viral” as they say, all over the internet.
In the lead-up to Christmas, everyone gets their lawns mowed, the wide grass verges by the road trimmed, and their gardens manicured. Then the tents and canopies start going up, and families arrive from all over the country, and camp on front lawns for Christmas.
Christmas – time in this country is hedgerows festooned with billowing banks of climbing pink roses which I think must be Dorothy Perkins. They grow wherever settlers farmed over a hundred years ago, and have scrambled along dusty lanes and country roads ever since.
Christmas here is also blue and white agapanthus which too, have spread along road sides, and gracefully adorn banks and garden entrances, even though this spectacular flower is now condemned as a noxious weed! They bloom at the same time as the pink roses and the red and orange flax flowers, from which the turquoise and black tuis suck nectar with their long beaks.
The red blossom of the pohutukawa tree, the New Zealand Christmas tree, and flaming orange cannas spreading alongside the blue agapanthus, are also part of the brightness and exuberance that is part of an Antipodean Christmas. No spare leafless trees, pale skies and frosty hillsides here. Instead it’s the peak of summer before the flowers wilt and the hills go brown in the blazing sunshine which always seems to arrive with Christmas.
On Christmas Eve, I drove through pouring rain to our nearest big village in search of a half bottle of rum, to make a coffee and rum sauce for the walnut- coffee meringue gateau. Through the wind-screen wipers I saw a dead bird on the road ahead. I picked out the speckled wing feathers and coral- red head of the bird, and recognised a banded rail. These are rare flightless native birds which live on an island sanctuary out to sea.
I had found a baby corpse on the road some years ago, and put it in the deep freeze, before contacting the Department of Conservation. They were rapt, came rushing out and dashed off with the pathetic little frozen body to put it on their map. They knew the birds had reached a spot on the mainland quite a way from here, but had no idea they might have spread to the mangrove swamps where I had found it.
The bird which I now wrapped in several plastic bags (thank you, maligned plastic bags!) was full grown, and heartbreakingly beautiful with its long pointed beak for digging into mud for food, delicate markings and elegant little legs and clawed feet. It spent Christmas Day and Boxing Day in the deep freeze, amongst frozen bread rolls and my husband’s emergency steak pies, and today I rang the department. Out they came again, and even remembered the last one I had delivered into their hands. Very satisfying to know that a rare breed seems to be multiplying nearby.
And now the New Year looms… I was rather sorry we survived the end of the world. I’d been looking forward to annihilation in a split second, and no more wars, no more cruelty to animals, children, women, men, or the planet! I had thought it would be great to have a fresh start somewhere down the track, and do it right next time – peace on earth – goodwill to all life, animal, vegetable and mineral, and all people whatever their colour, race, religion or sexual orientation.
It would also have been great in that distant future to acknowledge that there is only One Creator, whatever we choose to call him/her or it, Dieu, Yahweh, Allah, Lord Vishnu, Great Spirit, Gott, Divine Source, and therefore no need for religious wars, hostility, judgement or condemnation…. but it seems that we have to clean up our own act now, before we can have that peaceful future!
Maybe one way to start would be to take fourteen year old Minnie Haskin’s advice. George the Sixth, the Queen’s father, used these words to hearten the nation in his Christmas broadcast in 1940, when the islands of Britain stood alone against the terrifying brutality of Nazism.
“And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: “Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied:
“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than a light and safer than a known way.”
Food for Threadbare Gourmets
Our plum tree is bowed under the weight of a lavish harvest of dark purple plums which are only so-so for eating raw, but delicious when cooked. Every-one who receives a basket of these fruits also gets the recipe I use – borrowed from Nigella Lawson.
To a kilo of plums – more or less, use 300 ml of red wine – more rather than less! Nigella says stone them – I don’t bother, the stones come out quite easily when cooked.
Put the plums in an oven proof dish. In a saucepan boil the wine with two bay leaves, half a teasp of ground cinnamon, two cloves, one star anise, and 200g of honey. Pour over the plums, seal with foil or a lid, and bake for an hour or longer at 160 degrees, until they’re tender. You can keep them in the fridge for three days, and you can freeze them.
Serve with crème fraiche, ice-cream, or custard. I also think they’d be good with rice pudding on a cold day.
The aromatic scent while they are cooking is so delectable that I’d love to catch it in a bottle and spray it regularly around the kitchen.
Food for Thought
A man cannot be comfortable without his own approval.
Mark Twain 1835 – 1910 Great American writer, humorist, publisher of Ulysses Grant’s memoirs, friend of Helen Keller. Abolitionist and anti- segregationist, anti- vivisectionist, anti- imperialist, pro women’s rights.
Born when Halley’s Comet was closest to the earth, and died the day after its return seventy five years later..
He also said; ‘Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint.’