Posted today, this blog was written yesterday.
‘But this book is not about plot or narrative tension; it’s about being there.’ This sentence from a review of a book about the Arctic Circle featured on Beattie’s Book Blog sums up what I wanted to say about Elizabeth Smither’s novel ‘Lola’. I've begun reading Jane Smiley's 'Private Life'. I remember discovering 'Moo' one of her earlier novels at Rosemary's home in Brown's Bay. A perfect place to read a novel dissecting univesity life, a view of the sea to Rangitoto - placidity amidst all that plotting and counter-plotting
Friends Fran and Howard brought our evening meal last night – meals on wheels for golden oldies. I was delighted – a well-deserved night off for Anne. With my non-participation, a dinner party means extra work for her. So grateful thanks.
The first course was walnuts from their large tree. Fresh walnuts and walnut pate from a recipe Anne gave Fran years ago. It’s now a yearly ritual. The flavour of barely dried walnut brings back early childhood memories. On the Pigeon Bay farm my father managed there was a long grove of walnut trees. Late autumn saw the laborious collection of nuts.
Four year old, I helped with the trailer on my trike, but quickly tiring took my toy koala off for rides on the side. Long racks of drying nuts faced north on the verandah. Possums had arrived on the Peninsula. A dog was chained there to keep them away from the nuts. Suddenly in the middle of the immense silence that is a country night there would be a sudden rattle of a chain, a frantic burst of barking and an angry marsupial hiss.
Then ginger chicken legs – very tasty – followed by tamarillo puree for dessert, fruit from their own trees. And one of the loveliest flavours in Christendom. A good meal.
Speaking of food I learnt from Del Conti’s book that many centuries ago a Pope ruled that snails are fish and not meat; therefore they can be eaten on Friday and Lent. She says it was because he was a snail-loving Pope. I can’t vouch for that. I’ve only eaten snails once. I enjoyed the garlic. And did not try again. Whereas frogs’ legs. Yum!
During the day, with the help of the walker, I made it the local shopping centre to sit in the winter sun, watch the traffic flow past, people filter into the shops and a man water the hanging flower baskets. Everyone’s hunched against the winter weather.
Back home, a tui and a bellbird arrived on their daily reconnaissance of the abutilon bush. Each stayed long enough for me to savour the sight.
Last year our first camellia – the bright scarlet one - flowered on the 16th. Today, the first bloom on the same tree on the same NE side appeared despite the very different season. Soon, the camellias white, pink and this one red will be in full bloom. They were here when we arrived, so I don’t know their varietal names.
Camellias are named after the Jesuit priest Georg Kamel. In the 17th century he sent back to Europe seeds of the plant – a member of the tea family – that the Chinese had been cultivating for centuries. Part of their appeal is that the generous scattering of strong-coloured blooms backgrounded by glossy dark-green leaves.
A camellia in bloom. The perfect approach to the shortest day. And there is a peep of a tulip in the pot outside the back door.