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Tuesday, June 28, 2011


Today, an announcement.

I am currently obsessed with the Irish tin whistle.

(Otherwise known as the feadóg, a word I have not yet learnt to pronounce.)

Over the last month of writing my thesis, I started putting together a list of things I wanted to do once I finished. One of them was to learn the tin whistle properly and play in an Irish band.

Background: I bought a cheap tin whistle a few years ago when I was still playing the recorder a lot, but never really picked it up.

I didn't really intend to, but when I got home on the day I finished my thesis, I pulled out the whistle, googled myself some sheet music, enlisted my flatmate on the guitar and started playing the tin whistle.

I'm not fantastic. I've been trained for classical music on the recorder and so I don't have the right style, and I'm still getting used to some of the different fingerings... however... I am having SO MUCH FUN.

I have:

(a) found myself a fiddler - a friend from church who is a fantastic violinist and who is super keen to join in our sessions. All we need now is someone to play the bodhran, or some other kind of drum.

(b) spent far too much time on youtube looking up jigs and reels and then hunting down the sheet music on sites like this and this. Here are a couple of the songs I am determined to master:

As long as I can get other people to take it as seriously as I am, it's going to be awesome!!

And just to prove I can still laugh at myself:

Sunday, June 19, 2011

food as experience

I've declared my cookbook challenge over and completed - okay, so not quite completed but definitely over. I ended up giving away a couple of my least favourite recipe books to a secondhand book sale, so obviously I can't use them now. And then the recipes in the other couple of books are very difficult to adapt for a flat with a vegetarian in it.

However, the plan is to keep trying new recipes from different places. And my new favourite lunch recipe is sooooo yummy I thought I would share it with you.

The other night I made calzone based on Jamie Oliver's recipe, here. I loved the filling so much and it was so quick and easy that when someone at church gave me a big bag of free mushrooms, and I just happened to have bread dough in the breadmaker at home getting ready for my lunch, I decided to adapt the recipe somewhat.

Firstly, make bread rolls according to your own recipes or your breadmaker's instructions, or buy some bread rolls. Always better fresh!

In a frypan, heat some olive oil, and then sauté about half an onion, chopped, with some crushed garlic and thyme. Chop up some mushrooms and add them to the pan, frying until they look good. Add a tablespoon or two of butter. Then add some pasta sauce of the tomato variety - Jamie Oliver has a recipe for it in the link above but I just used the canned stuff. Throw in some spinach leaves and cook until it looks about right!

I know it doesn't LOOK particularly appetising, but it tastes amazing, especially with fresh bread. And it's very quick and easy.

In other food news:
- I went out for dinner last night for a friend's birthday. This was very exciting because so many restaurants are closed after the earthquakes that it's just such a pain to go out that I haven't been out for ages. I hadn't realised how much I missed it!
- We dined at a Vietnamese restaurant and the food was amazing! The service left much to be desired, however.
- Afterwards we went across the road to Misceo Café to have dessert and I was privileged to eat the most delicious and perfect chocolate mud cake I have ever tried. I was completely incapable of making myself feel guilty about it afterwards, because it was truly an art form. Such a cake SHOULD be eaten and enjoyed.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

light and dark

I astonished myself today with a sudden lightning strike of self-knowledge. I am becoming a big GRUMP.

Perhaps this is my way of responding to the earthquakes. Other people get frightened or emotional; I get annoyed at the people around me and develop a tendency towards reclusiveness and become furious if anyone should dare to interrupt my solitude. And then I get angry at myself for being like this.

On the other hand, I have had some lovely things happen lately.

First, about a week ago my flatmate A. got engaged. This is very, very exciting and lovely. I have lived with A. for two and a half years and so I have seen the entire story and I am SO happy for them. It's also very exciting that we are going to be involved in all the preparation and get an inside point of view (this might not be everyone's cup of tea but I LOVE HELPING TO ORGANISE THINGS).

Secondly, last night I got to feel a baby in utero for the first time ever. As I already have twelve nieces and nephews I don't know how it got this far without having done this, but my sister J. is having a baby anytime now and yesterday I got to feel one of the baby's legs, still inside my sister, kicking around and squirming.

What a strange, bizarre, alien, miraculous, happy thing. Life is good.

Monday, June 13, 2011


So, we've had a day of larger than normal earthquakes. (One of them was a 6.0, which is the third biggest yet.) We didn't lose power or water, so very thankful for that. And no one has been seriously hurt - thank God!

On the other hand:

(a) Over 50,000 homes DON'T have power. It is getting down to freezing every night at the moment so please pray that Christchurch families can find ways to keep warm tonight.

(b) More damage. Dang and blast. There was red tape around a lot of these buildings, so luckily they fell without hurting anyone. But a friend of mine, as an example, whose house made it through both the September and February quakes by the skin of its teeth, has now lost her home. It's twisted off its foundation. My sister and brother-in-law had repairs on their house finished last week, and will have to start from the beginning again. It really sucks.

(c) We have to start boiling water again which is just a huge pain.

(d) This is all really tiring. And emotionally draining. The quakes today weren't HUGE, but they were very violent and rather scary. The dominant emotion I have seen expressed today is this: I AM OVER IT. Is this going to continue - every three or four months, just when we're starting to feel like things might be getting more normal again?

On the plus side, again, no one is dead. But on the minus side, this makes it psychologically okay to complain about things like dangerous water or unsettling aftershocks.

*pulling myself together*

I'm fine. There is a chocolate pudding in the oven and the fire is on. I don't feel bleak, like I did after the February earthquake. I was at home when it happened so I didn't have to go through the whole evacuation saga again. There are many things in the world that I DON'T have to put up with. Consider my blessings counted!

Edit: The biggest quake on Monday, it turns out, was actually a 6.3 on the Richter scale - exactly the same size as the February earthquake. Photos here.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

the cordon

Today I did one of the things I've been intending to do for a while, but left until I had finished my thesis. I walked around the cordon in Christchurch's CBD. This has been up since the February earthquake, but has diminished in size somewhat. The 'red zone' still endures. It's guarded by police and the army. I didn't feel particularly comfortable going on a sightseeing walk earlier. But more than three months have passed since the earthquake. Now I just miss the city centre, and I wanted to see it with my own eyes.

There are flowers and messages pinned around the place:

There is interesting brickwork everywhere:

And there are plenty and plenty of fences separating you from potential danger:

It's what makes Christchurch one of the safest cities in the country at the moment, in my opinion. We've been told there's a 23% chance of another big earthquake over 6 on the Richter scale, and we had a reasonably big (5.5) aftershock yesterday morning, while there are smaller ones rumbling away every day. So, understandably, people are nervous. Having visited a couple of other cities since the whole earthquake situation got underway in September last year, however, makes me thankful that I am here, if only for the reason that all our dangerous buildings have come down already or are surrounded by security fences.

I took a lot of photos. Here are some:

Yes, that is a cathedral being held up by shipping containers.

This is the Grand Chancellor hotel, Christchurch's tallest building and our very own leaning tower. You can probably see that it's angled slightly awry? Unfortunately for every building in its way if it should fall, it's going to take over a year to demolish it, which means business owners won't be back in for a very long time.

The Provincial Chambers were one of the most dramatically ruined for me. Very sad. There are a bunch of similar Gothic Revival buildings which have crumpled, but this is the most terrible one (except Durham Street Methodist Church, which was practically razed). Thankfully, it will be one of the few buildings on the priority list for rebuilding.

It was very eerie walking around the city. Where traffic is allowed, it's pretty busy, but as soon as you walk down a street closer to the cordon, the silence is overwhelming. No - it's not silent - but all you can hear is a building being demolished a few blocks away, and a few birds. Ghostly.

It is also strange to see some blank spots where well-known buildings used to be. St Elmo Courts on Montreal Street. The Cranmer Centre on Armagh Street. And the CTV building on Madras Street is the most poignant of all in its absence. I'm glad I wasn't able to see it. I think approximately 100 people died in its rubble.

It was a comfort, however, to see a few places that are still open and functioning. C4 was an awesome little café on High Street that has all but fallen down. Their street is also closed and will be for a long time. So I had thought there was no chance of a C4 flat white anytime in the future. I did not know that the C4 company roasts its own coffee, and so stumbling across its premises near the city, with a functioning and funky (though quiet) café, was very exciting. Here is my trim flat white, and a piece of lolly cake:

Now I am (a) footsore; (b) a little awed at the difference it makes to see some of these places with my own eyes; (c) glad to have been into the city finally, and glad to have visited C4; but (d) a little sad again.