Thursday, January 31, 2008

Surprising news

I just noted that my blog thingie is reading that I have created 3,034 posts

And the stat meter says 59,182 visitors.

It all began back on 16 November 2005, when I tried to move my existing posts over from somewhere hopeless like MySpace - from a blog started in August that year I think.
You cannot protect yourself from sadness without protecting yourself from happiness.
Jonathan Safran Foer, from Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

Many thanks to the brilliant Sparkletopia, who manages to offer up some delightful gem everyday.

Ceiling details, Den Wolsack by Gert

I hadn't tried capturing the artwork on the ceiling of Den Wolsack but Gert does this things where he puts the timer on and lies the camera directly under what he's trying to capture. It worked well in Haghia Sophia and best of all, there's no need for flash...

Via Via Reiscafe, Antwerpen

Via Via Reiscafe, Antwerpen, originally uploaded by - di.

Here's my free- wifi, good music, nice food cafe in the city ....

Reiscafe = travel cafe.


What is your truth? Ask your heart, your back, your bones and your dreams. Listen to that truth with your whole body. Understand that this truth will destroy no one and that you're too old to be sent to your room. Move into your truth as though it were an old house. Walk through each room. See, hear, and feel what it is to live there. Try to love what you find, and remember the words that come to you as you explore. If you embrace it, if you are faithful to it, your truth will reward you with unimaginable freedom and intimacy with yourself and others. You won't land in a world made to order; some people in your life may not like what you write. But those who remain will be allies, people who breathe deeply and listen. It will feel good to be seen completely and loved as you are.
John Lee, Writing from the Body

Found over on Gypsy Girl's Guide.

This much I know ... (or something like that)

I had no idea I knew so much about the nature of stomach flus ...

Little Miss Three allowed me to showcase that knowledge last night and I could advise, with some authenticity, on the whole affair ... how to wash vomit from bed linen and the fact that the waves of sickness come, on average, about every 30 minutes.

She was a little geyser for a while there and so yes, the stomach flu everyone has been talking of here seems to have arrived over at our place.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A Reading Bender and Some New Zealand Lamb

I'm about to resurrect the reading part of my life and picked up a delicious pile of travel-type books today.

Christina Lamb is an author I'm in pursuit of these days. I wrote of her recently, having discovered her during that first attempt on Benazir Bhutto's life back in October.

The city library here in Antwerpen has a rather decent English literature section but I found The Sewing Circles of Herat hidden amongst the travel books that are mainly in Dutch.

I caught me a bear on the way home ...

In the supermarket, wondering what to cook for dinner when I found a big chunk of New Zealand lamb with 50% off because it had to be cooked today. I was the cook who could do that, and found 2 big kumara to go with the rest.

Life is good ... frustrating sometimes but good.

You know 'those' days ...?

When it's grey, there's an icy wind blowing and the rain is falling sideways and getting under the umbrella, or paraplu, as they're so delightfully known in Dutch ... and when you woke in a bad mood and even Ralph Fiennes would annoy you if he arrived in your day?

My day started like that and I put the first post into 'draft' because I was so surly I was horrid. Some mornings I just NEED that office to go to.

So I left and ended up smiling over all the 'firsts' I was achieving as a result; firsts that we often only experience as children.

I walked up to my new bank and withdrew my first 20euro, getting right through the process in Dutch without problems.

Then there's the library ... on my way to make use of my shiny new library card, I stopped at the Kubus Permeke cafe at the entrance and discovered that not only is it an aesthetically pleasing place to be, the onion soup is superb and there's a free library wifi setup here.

And there's the added delight of walking through Antwerpen's Chinatown to get here.

The only thing I haven't quite 'got' is how to eat onion soup while blogging ... then again, perhaps I shouldn't be.

Last night I attended my 4th social orientation class after a crazy day of running around ... it was on health matters.

I'm not subtle about missing New Zealand but where our kiwi health care is a mess, Belgium's health system is a smoothly oiled machine. There are no queues, so many costs are subsidised or refunded - it's like NZ years ago, when the politicians were still promising 'cradle to grave' care of the people.

The only questionable practice I could find, and in a way I see the sense of it ... unless you state in writing that you don't want to donate your organs after death, they will be taken.

But back to my lunch ... I tossed the little toasted cubes of bread into the soup, the grated cheese too, I buttered the soft-on-the-inside, crunchy-on-the-outside white bread roll and enjoyed my glass of sparkling water ... all for under 5 euro; with free internet, good music, a great view out over the cobblestoned square through floor to ceiling windows almost hoping that more people don't discover it while wanting to rave about it.

Den Wolsack II, Antwerpen

Den Wolsack II, Antwerpen, originally uploaded by - di.

We're living in interesting times ...

The world is changing. The old ways will not do ... ' It is time for a new generation of leadership.
John Kennedy

So it is with Barack Obama.
Ted Kennedy

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The most delicious thing just happened ...

I was offered, and acccepted, the job I was interviewed for last week!!

It works in so well with my other projects and will be the more serious, grown-up part of my life ... I needed that.

So it's Brussels once a week as a communications assistant for 6 months.

Monday, January 28, 2008

A detail from Lange Koepoortstraat

A detail from Melkmarkt, originally uploaded by - di.

This is maybe my favourite photograph from a few hours wandering ...

Den Wolsack, Antwerpen

Den Wolsack, Antwerpen, originally uploaded by - di.

I've always been intrigued by this building, first built in 1397 but rebuilt after the entire street burned down in 1441.

The name Wolsack refers to both a small dead-end street and the sack in which wool is stored.

We found Den Wolsack in one of the oldest streets in Antwerpen - Oude Beurs (Old Market or Exchange) - a street that has experienced more than a few name changes.

The street was originally named Bullinck, then after the big fire it was renamed Wolstraat (Wool Street) and finally we have the Oude Beurs of today.

Photograph taken by Gert.

Detail from Den Wolsack

Detail from Den Wolsack, originally uploaded by - di.

A snapshot

Gert's home, using up the last of his holiday days so we're off to the city to finalise my new Belgian bank account, open a library membership and find some photographs.

This blog needs some photographs, urgently.

Tot straks!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Pavlova for Peter and Hans.

This is just one version of the famous New Zealand pavlova . Once you've made it a few times, you might want to go searching and find 'the' recipe that's right for you.

I had a legendary one back in the 80's but it was lost along the way, so this one is your starter ...

4 large egg whites
1 cup (200g) superfine or castor sugar
1 teaspoon white vinegar (I used to use malt vinegar in NZ)
1/2 Tablespoon cornstarch (corn flour)

Topping: whipped cream
and whatever you please.
grated chocolate, fruit like strawberries or kiwis ... whatever you fancy.

Preheat oven to 250F or 130C and place rack in the centre of the oven. Line a baking sheet with paper and you can draw an 18cm (7in) circle on the paper (but I don't).

- Put your egg whites into a big mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer until the meringue holds very stiff peaks.
- Continue beating the egg whites and start adding the sugar, about a tablespoon at a time.
- Test to see if the sugar has dissolved by rubbing a little meringue between your thumb and finger - if gritty, keep beating.
- Once the sugar has dissolved, stop beating it and add the vinegar and cornstarch. Fold them into the meringue with a rubber spatula.

Gently spread the meringue inside the circle on the baking paper, if you made one.

Bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes or until the outside is dry and takes on a very pale cream clour. Turn the oven off and leave the door slight open, letting the pav cool off in the oven.

The outside of the pav will feel firm but as it cools you will get some cracking, allowing you to see the inside is soft and marshmallowy (hopefully).

Whip the cream and cover the pavlova with it just before serving.


Oh, and if anyone has a tried and tested pavlova recipe they know and love, I would be more than happy to receive a copy.

Party at Villa Kiwi, Antwerpen

It's a tired creature, writing this post ... tired in good ways I hasten to add. There's nothing quite like good company, a party and a photo session to make me smile in winter.

v-grrrl has written our weekend up and described Di in her interview clothes in ways that made me smile so I'll link to her post.

But last night's party ... it was extra special, partially due to our talented Spanish guitar-playing friend who delighted us with songs in both Spanish, including music he had written for one of Pablo Neruda's poems, and in Portuguese. He's working on a demo, I'll let you know when his music is available.

And I was left with camera-envy (shameful I know) when Simon and Paola talked of their intended purchase but so very delighted to meet them. And charmed, as ever, by Peter and Hans.

Eva's one of the world's beautiful people, inside and out, the Belgian in love with her Spaniard, came over and we enjoyed catching up with both her and her man. Lut was there, radiating her deliciousness and at one point had little Miss Three curled up in her arms as they sat listening to Ivan play guitar ... and I discovered her man Maurice speaks English so very well. I should have known, Belgians are so good in languages but Maurice has been happy to listen to us in the past.

I think I impressed him (almost) when I told him in Dutch that he was 'a rose between two thorns' when he sat with Lut and I on the red couch ... een roos tussen twee toornen

It was lovely to see Eric, Miss E and Mr A - property of Ms V. They're always a pleasure to catch up with. Kiwis Heather and Helen came too, with Heather putting my 'New Zealanders don't really do language' claim to shame with her fluent Dutch. (...sigh) And Helen had come despite jetlag - a woman I hope to photograph one day soon actually.

Michelle came bearing Brownies that tasted divine, with a new hair style that suited and would have delighted Shannon - our guru of good taste and beautiful things. We're hooking up for a photo session next weekend, as she joins those flying home and abandoning me soon.

I guess it's clear that it was a really good night, one of those nights that leave you sitting on the couch with good friends talking about how much we all enjoyed it, how nice the people were, and about the conversations that seemed better than ever.

Thanks to everyone who traveled to Antwerpen ...

So, when suits you in February?

Caroline Kennedy and 'A President Like my Father'

Caroline Kennedy's op-ed in the NY Times has been the most popular article today. Titled A President Like My Father I was intrigued.

I want a president who understands that his responsibility is to articulate a vision and encourage others to achieve it; who holds himself, and those around him, to the highest ethical standards; who appeals to the hopes of those who still believe in the American Dream, and those around the world who still believe in the American ideal; and who can lift our spirits, and make us believe again that our country needs every one of us to get involved.

I have never had a president who inspired me the way people tell me that my father inspired them. But for the first time, I believe I have found the man who could be that president — not just for me, but for a new generation of Americans.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

A little of this, a little of that

It's been an interesting week ...

Did I mention that last week's postponed job interview happened yesterday? I will have to wait till next week to hear but I'm hoping.

More than that though was grand just being out there and wandering again. I adore Brussels.

The day of the interview and we woke at 6.30am. I was catching the 8.30 from Antwerp to Brussels, until we heard the news that my tram line wasn't running due to strike action by the mechanics ...

So I showered fast and caught a bus into Central Station around 7.30am, prepared to wait there if I was too early but no, I arrived to the news that the 8.30am train to Brussels was already running 15 minutes late so ... I jumped on the 8.02.

Bowing to a variation of something akin to delhi-belly of Thursday, I had traveled without breakfast, fearful really. But what else is there to do in Brussels North station if you're almost one and a half hours early for a job interview.

I located my tram line then kicked back with a koffie verkeerd and warm croissant.

I enjoyed the interview, then popped in to catch up with a friend living in Sint Gillisvoorplein. I loved the area, possibly helped by the fact that there was a market going on but the area just had a really nice feeling ... reminiscent of Istanbul really.

I had a hearty onion soup with crusty chunks of bread for 2.50euro at a brasserie on a corner, a place I need to go back to one day.

Finally I met up with v-grrrl and we caught the train home, talking and continuing to talk right through into today.

Party tonight, the apartment is a work in progress ... I clean a little, talk a little.

Tot ziens from the kiwi in Belgie

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

I hope that you at this moment will think of yourself as a human being rather than as an american, asian, european, african, or member of any particular country. These loyalties are secondary. If you and I find common ground as human beings, we will communicate on a basic level.
the Dalai Lama.

Borrowed from Luka Bloom's website.

Stuff you don't need to know about me :)

I just realised that 3 of my favourite songs begin with the sound of heavy rain ...

Paul Kelly and his 'Midnight Rain' (which I have never found on youtube.)
Seal and Love's Divine .
Luka Bloom and Monsoon

Oddly enough, my favourite poem is Hone Tuwhare's 'Rain'.

I didn't realise I had a list of favourites based on rain till I was loading my mp3 player tonight and put all the old and new favourites together at the top of the playlist.

Erin Brockovich and New Zealand

"NZ has the 3rd highest level of personal debt, help us get to No. 1."
Bond and Bond, New Zealand electrical retailer advertisement.

Ummm, last year's effort: Bond and Bond was forced last year by American campaigner Erin Brockovich to withdraw an advertisement that said: "Government says fridges are better younger. Just like women really."

Sourced from the NZ Herald.

A bad wine kind of day in Antwerpen

The grey sky was pressing a little bit heavy today so I offered Gert the opportunity to lunch with me ... charming creature that I am.

I was early and popped into a harbour-side pub for a wine.
Lovely view from the window, good music and the price of the food seemed not too bad but the house wine was vinegar.

Lesson learned, I met Gert at our favourite cafe in the area. Eve's sandwich cafe is second to none. I'll post on it one day.

Not quite ready to go home, I popped into Via Via, knowing I could count on ambience, free wifi and some drinkable red wine.

But no, here I am with a second glass of vinegar red wine, another undrinkable red wine. It doesn't bear thinking about.

I guess today isn't my day (or it could be a sign) but the glass can sit next to me while I work on my photographs ... a reason for loitering here and about the same price as paying for internet.

Istanbul Memories ... a slightly girly perspective on memories

Living in Istanbul was one of the most challenging, satifying and happiest times of my life so far ... and the perfume I came to love while living there was Carolina Herrera 212.

Beste introduced me to shopping for good copies and my Istanbul 212 fake created this feeling of sunshine on the toughest of days.

Today I realised that it has become the one constant from those days to these Belgian days and no matter how cash-strapped we are, Gert made Herrera 212 a small priority and there's almost always this bottle of happy memories someplace on my desk.

This morning, getting ready to go out and open my very first bank account here in the flatland, I sprayed some on and realised again, the way a perfume can bring back memories of other places and different times.

A bank account eh ... it's been too long.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Michele Hewitson, Journalist

I removed my whining post from this morning ...

Sometimes it is simply that it's crap to have to clean the 'office' before you can get on with working in the 'office', especially when it has been messed up by the other 5 you share the apartment with.

I'm trying to work my sense of outrage into my argument about why I need a dog. I still sometimes hear the scrabbling of Sandie-dog's paws on the foor when I scrape a plate and imagine what she would do with Miss 3's under-the-table-dispersal of food stuff.

So ... posting of far more interesting things. A writing goddess actually.

I was lucky enough to play freelance photographer to New Zealand journalist, Michele Hewitson last year, and since then I've become a huge fan of her delightful style of interview.

I found an article that really gives you a glimpse of who she is and how she affects interviewees. It's titled A year of interviewing - you can't make these things up.

I'd like to be Michele Hewitson when I grow up.

1.32am, Tuesday 22nd January 2008

And here I am, watching the funeral of Sir Edmund Hilary on Television One back home in New Zealand.

It's so much sadder than I knew to expect. He's just always been there, this guy who was first to climb Everest.

Listening to his family speak of him, now the television presenters, seeing New Zealanders lining the streets as his coffin travels to the cemetery, hearing Dave Dobbyn's song Loyal playing ... sad and very homesick but glad I was able to see it.

Monday, January 21, 2008

An interesting article titled 'Hillary, Barack, Experience'

Nicholas Kristof writes a thoughtful piece on what might be wrong about voting for 'experience' when voting for the next president of America.

He opens: With all the sniping from the Clinton camp about whether Barack Obama has enough experience to make a strong president, consider another presidential candidate who was far more of a novice. He had the gall to run for president even though he had served a single undistinguished term in the House of Representatives, before being hounded back to his district.

That was Abraham Lincoln.

But it was they way that he ended his fact-filled article that made me smile... To put it another way, think which politician is most experienced today in the classic sense, and thus — according to the “experience” camp — best qualified to become the next president.

That’s Dick Cheney. And I rest my case.

Michael Yon, Blogger

The New York Times is running an interesting story on a blogger covering the war in Iraq.

Michael Yon was not a journalist, and he wasn’t sure what a blogger was. He had been in uniform but not in combat, and he wanted to keep it that way. He went to Iraq thinking he would stay for a month, and maybe find a way to write about the war after he got home.

Instead, he has spent most of the last three years in Iraq, writing prolifically and graphically, and racking up more time embedded with combat units than any other journalist, according to the United States military. He has been shot at, buffeted by explosions and seen more people maimed — fighters and civilians, adults and children — than he can count.

Fireplace feature, Antwerpen

Fireplace feature, Antwerpen, originally uploaded by - di.

The street is probably Oude Beurs, Peter. That's where Gert thinks the old building is ...

I'll go back this week if you don't find it. I need to name it once and for all.

This was a detail of the big old fireplace in the room that Jessie and I found in the city.

The natural light there was superb. I think it was more about that than the subject in this instance.

blue eye, originally uploaded by - di.

It was a lazy day Sunday hence the impromptu photography session that left me with a computer full of images to work through.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

A Conchords Interview

The Sunday Star Times over in New Zealand are running an interview with comedy duo Flight of the Conchords who have been spending an extended summer break in New Zealand and enjoying a heroes' welcome home. Tim Hume talks to them.

People Who Live

People who live by the sea
understand eternity.
They copy the curves of the waves,
their hearts beat with the tides,
& the saltiness of their blood
corresponds with the sea.

They know that the house of flesh
is only a sandcastle
built on the shore,
that skin breaks
under the waves
like sand under the soles
of the first walker on the beach
when the tide recedes.

Each of us walks there once,
watching the bubbles
rise up through the sand
like ascending souls,
tracing the line of the foam,
drawing our index fingers
along the horizon
pointing home.

Erica Jong, Poet

Thanks to Gypsy Girl .

One reason to attend social orientation classes ...

Then there's the 5000euro fine for non-attendance ...

Anyone who is still for more than a few seconds when I have my camera is clearly wanting their photograph taken :)

A winter's day out walking ...

reflection, originally uploaded by - di.

Jessie and I went out wandering and found this old room in the city, even the ceiling has a beautiful painting on it.

Gert asked me where it is, I had no real idea. It's one that I always find by accident.

So there I was, wondering what it might have been when the camera clicked and she had me ... a photograph of that rarely captured breed known as the photographer ;)

Saturday, January 19, 2008

So then there was fado

I blame Erin ... or should that be, I'm thankful to Erin for mentioning Mariza.

I've been listening to her as I work here this afternoon. And yes, I'm waiting for the movie now.

Market Day and a rainy day in the city

Apparently the wind is coming from Africa, that's why its warmer here today. Warm with a light drizzle that gently covers you when you go out and I realised, remembered and smiled ... this is 'my' weather. It's the weather I know best from growing up on the east coast of New Zealand's South Island.

I remember back in Mecidiyekoy in Istanbul, the days when it rained like this were the days when the people who recognised me, called to me smiling.

It's always been my weather, I come alive.

We caught the tram to the foreigners market this morning and I delighted in finding big parsnips and big red kumara to roast in oil with onions and potatoes and carrots tonight. Then distracted by healthy green spring onions we bought mushrooms too, Persian chicken is on the menu too now.

Apples for kindergarten and this delicious big bread from the speciality bread man, with two freshly-baked speculoos.

I came home to a desk that is becoming cosy, with the whisper of a huge 'dive into and swim across an unknown ocean' kind of project glimmering on the horizon. A faint glimmer, so no details for now.

A good day here in the flatlands ...

Maya Stein, Poet

An extract from a beautiful poem over at one paragraph at a time.

imagine, despite your unbearable faults and fissures,
you are still a thing of beauty, a rare creature, a snowflake,
a singular, spectacular atom circumnavigating the tangled astronomy
of your life the only way you know how.

Friday, January 18, 2008

ja sei namorar,Tribalistas

I've been on oddly exploratory musical journey of late. Completely accidental but purely pleasurable too. Finding music through others, being curious, needing to paste them into this journal-like space of mine ...

Found over on Gypsy Girls Guide.

Poems from Guantánamo, Amnesty International

You can listen to Poet Laureate Andrew Motion, former detainee Moazzam Begg, poet and writer Mogib Hassan and actor and musician Riz Ahmed reading these poems written by some of prisoners in Guantanamo.

In the past six years, at least 775 men have been held in the U.S detention centre at Guantánamo Bay. The men detained in the prison camp are routinely held in solitary confinement, condemned without a fair trail, many of them tortured. Through all this, some of the detainees have taken sanctuary in poetry some of which is now available in a new book Poems from Guantánamo, the detainees speak.

Thanks to Babel Fish .

Monet's Pond

Monet's Pond, originally uploaded by - di.

Looking through the photographs taken in France now.

I loved Monet's garden. I could work there in that space he created. The colours in his house, the outlook over the peaceful gardens ... it was lovely.

Ornela Vorpsi, Writer

There's an interesting glimpse of a woman over at Cafe Babel.

Ornela Vorpsi is introduced as an Italian-writing, Paris-dwelling, prize-winning Albanian writer.

Ornela continues to write in Italian, but she thinks and talks in four languages. Is this maybe what languages mean to us in Europe today? 'To me it comes naturally. I continue to speak Albanian to my mother on the phone every day, in Italian to my husband, and French in the street. And I believe that the language in my novels is a synthesis of many cultures, of many mixed languages.'

You can read a little more about her here, if curious

Someplace in Spain

Someplace in Spain, originally uploaded by - di.

I stayed up alone last night, just for a while, web-wandering in the peace of a sleeping house.

I was introduced to some lovely new sites, and found old friends who had stopped posting once upon a time but were back.

This morning I'm working on photographs from Spain, listening to Lila Downs , found over on Twitches web space.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Only to the extent which we expose ourselves over and over again to annihilation can that which is indestructible be found in us.
Pema Chodron

Found over at Sparkletopia.

Release Me, by Oh Laura

Mark introduced me to the Swedish band, Oh Laura today.
I'm liking them.

Curious about sword swallowers?

Martin was telling about, a website packed with genuine, improbable research culled from more than 20,000 science, medical, and technical, and academic journals.

So if you've ever wondered about sword-swallowers and the side-effects then here it is: Sword swallowing and its side effects

Objective To evaluate information on the practice and associated ill effects of sword swallowing.

Jonathan Coulton, Re Your Brains

I just had youtube playing in my ears, courtesy of my daughter ...

It amused me enough to go wandering for more information. The write up led me to Jonathan Coulton's site.

Jonathan Coulton is a singer/songwriter who releases his songs via the Creative Commons license, which enables projects such as this video. Through his "Thing A Week" podcast, Jonathan has put out a clever, creative song like this one every week for a year.

Please visit Spiffworld for more information about my videos, including info about how I make them.

The song at the end of the video is "Mandelbrot Set", another great Jonathan Coulton song.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Don't forget that being an exile is one of the hardest things there is. The ancient Greeks thought that exile was a sort of death. Hold on to your traditions and your faith.

I think you should write down your life experiences and all that you can remember about your tribe
Pascal Khoo Thwe, extractFrom the Land of Green Ghosts.

Borrowed from Lotus's exquisite book readers blog.
Learn what you are and be such.

Borrowed from Sparkletopia.

A little of my home city ...

Reporting should be dispassionate, wide-ranging and well-informed ...
A reporter may express a professional, journalistic judgement, but not a personal opinion ... Audiences should not be able to gauge from BBC programmes the personal views of presenters and reporters. (BBC Producer Guidelines, 1996, p.16)

Mark Brayne, from The Personal Experience of Being a Foreign Correspondent.

Hone Tuwhare, Poet

More sad news from New Zealand ... my favourite poet from back home died today.

Martin sent news of it this morning and I raced over to the New Zealand Herald, unable to believe that we could have lost another of my favourite Kiwis.

They wrote: Hone Tuwhare, New Zealand's most distinguished Maori writer, has died aged 86.

This poem is probably my favourite amongst all poems ever read:

I can hear you
making small holes
in the silence

If I were deaf
the pores of my skin
would open to you
and shut

And I
should know you
by the lick of you
if I were blind

the something
special smell of you
when the sun cakes
the ground

the steady
drum-roll sound
you make
when the wind drops

But if I
should not hear
smell or feel or see

you would still
define me
disperse me
wash over me

Hone Tuwhare

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

I'm Luke, I'm 5 ...

It's been too long since I posted a link to one of my favourite songs.

The JCB Song by Nizlopi is simply the cutest song in the world. Give it a little time to start and I'm not sure if it's still possible but the story of the song is inspiring.

It begins: Being dyslexic in the early 80's (oh the irony - give people who can't spell a word that nobody can spell). Luke's school days weren't always easy. Indeed he was victimised at school, not just by the bullies but by the school itself - so when he sings of "all the bullies, the teachers and their pets ..." he knows what he's talking about and this very much comes from the heart.

There were school days when Luke's Dad decided he needed some 'compassionate leave' and would take him to work, where the 5 year old would ride proudly on the toolbox of the old JBC and cook up vivid imaginings ...

Thanks to Pam who introduced it to me so long ago.

Nathalie Handel, poet, playwright and writer

We all have reasons for moving
I move to keep things whole.

Mark Strand, from Keeping Things Whole

I liked this quote. It suits my mood. I've been living with a question of late ... why haven't I moved this time. Why am I standing still in a half-life.

When my first marriage ended, I accepted the first home I was offered, grateful that I could pack my pride and courage and move on.

I lived there, in a place I could never call home, until the day that I woke and thought, I don't need to punish myself for an ending.

And fate smiled on me when I arrived in the small store on the peninsula a few moments after my future landlady had posted an advert for her small harbour-edge cottage, the one with windows from ceiling to floor and a view of the harbour and hills. The inexpensive one, odd on the inside with a questionable water supply but a happy home for a while.

And that's how it has been.
I look for a certain things in a home, things that soothe my soul when I find places to settle.

We only live one life, we shouldn't make do with the place where we live unless all choice is gone.

I found the quote on a page with poetry by Nathalie Handal and I loved the way she worked Strand into her poem titled
Strangers Inside Me.

An extract:

as I travel and move

from one continent to the next,

move, to be whole.

You can find Nathalie's website here .
"There are places on the planet we belong and they are not necessarily where we are born. If we are lucky- if the gods are in a good mood- we find them, for whatever length of time is necessary for us to know that, yes, we belong to the earth and it to us.
Even if we cannot articulate this intense physical sensation, even if language fails us, we know what home is then, in our very bones."

Elizabeth Huggan, from Belonging

Borrowed from Kim over at Stepping Stones.

Monday, January 14, 2008

a man, originally uploaded by - di.

Our current society often forces us to feel isolated from everyone else. Music helps us to recuperate this part of the social animal so that we can connect with others: emotionally, socially and also politically.'

Music helps us to understand that we are not alone in our dreams.

Ismael Serrano, Cafe Babel interview.

Ismael Serrano, Musician

“Music keeps us awake, alert to the reality around us. It makes us aware of certain truths: that we know we’ve got company on our quests, our questions, and in falling in and out of love; and that a better world is possible.
Ismael Serrano

In love with this song ...
Let us grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.
Marcel Proust

From the newly discovered and absolutely delightful sparkletopia.

Europe Takes Africa’s Fish, and Boatloads of Migrants Follow

Last year roughly 31,000 Africans tried to reach the Canary Islands, a prime transit point to Europe, in more than 900 boats. About 6,000 died or disappeared, according to one estimate cited by the United Nations.

A fairly heartbreaking article in the New York Times on why we should check where our fish come from and on why some Africans risk their life to reach a new life in Europe.

Many scientists agree. A vast flotilla of industrial trawlers from the European Union, China, Russia and elsewhere, together with an abundance of local boats, have so thoroughly scoured northwest Africa’s ocean floor that major fish populations are collapsing.

The region’s governments bear much of the blame for their fisheries’ decline. Many have allowed a desire for money from foreign fleets to override concern about the long-term health of their fisheries. Illegal fishermen are notoriously common; efforts to control fishing, rare.

But in the view of West African fishermen, Europe is having its fish and eating them, too. Their own waters largely fished out, European nations have steered their heavily subsidized fleets to Africa.

That has crippled coastal economies and added to the surge of illegal migrants who brave the high seas in wooden pirogues hoping to reach Europe. While reasons for immigration are as varied as fish species, Europe’s lure has clearly intensified as northwest Africa’s fish population has dwindled.

What European city do I belong in ...

Alongside the Seine, Paris 2007, originally uploaded by - di.

You Belong in Paris

You enjoy all that life has to offer, and you can appreciate the fine tastes and sites of Paris.
You're the perfect person to wander the streets of Paris aimlessly, enjoying architecture and a crepe.

A Snapshot from my Saturday Night

New Year Reception, 2008, originally uploaded by - di.

Saturday night and I was attending the Nieuw Jaar Receptie of Open VLD Greater Antwerp.

It was lovely catching up with people not seen since the last reception but I was also there as photographer, looking for a few people shots for a new magazine the liberal democrats are putting together.

And this was one of my favourite images from the evening - Koen Helsen, Province Alderman.

Note: Yes Peter and Manic, I got the name wrong. Both guys were at the event but Gert didn't check my work and I don't 'know' either of them, writes the smiling blogger.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Memories of April in Paris

Memories of April in Paris, originally uploaded by - di.

On Being a Good and Loving Wife ...

I have taken Gert out to my favourite cafe here in the city of Antwerpen ... Via Via on Wolstraat.

I bought him a newspaper and let him buy me a small carafe of wine. I have my laptop and he's devouring his newspaper in a new kind of 'peace', one that involves hanging out in a room full of strangers while good music plays.

We're together apart, him with his tea and me with my red wine.

A good Sunday to you too.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

I love this thing about New Zealand too

The New Zealand Herald was running this story and I really enjoyed reading about the accessibility of our present Prime Minister.

Planning began during a two-hour meeting between his widow, Lady Hillary, and Prime Minister Helen Clark, who returned to New Zealand from her holiday in Europe yesterday afternoon, and was driven straight to Lady Hillary's Remuera home.

On meeting Lady Hillary, the Prime Minister exclaimed, "There you are" and the two women embraced for several seconds.

I remember coming out of a long meeting with our previous NZ ambassador here in Brussels, we were a small group of kiwis discussing future plans, and afterwards I met an American friend while having a drink at an outdoor cafe. The friend was stunned when he learned where I'd been, saying that he couldn't imagine getting 5 minutes with his ambassador in Brussels.

More recently, when delivering photographs to the Embassy, a lovely guy held open the door for another American friend and I. He and I talked a little, I was curious to know how the new job was going.

On leaving the building I asked my friend if she realised who we'd been talking to. She was surprised to learn that he was New Zealand's present ambassador to Brussels.

We're nice people, she writes, ever so modestly ;)


Salamancan Doorway, originally uploaded by - di.

That is why we need to travel. If we don’t offer ourselves to the unknown, our senses dull. Our world becomes small and we lose our sense of wonder. Our eyes don’t lift to the horizon; our ears don’t hear the sounds around us. The edge is off our experience, and we pass our days in a routine that is both comfortable and limiting. We wake up one day and find that we have lost our dreams in order to protect our days.
Kent Nerburn.
Found over on Muse to Muse.

Balcony Butterfly by Gert

Balcony Butterfly by Gert, originally uploaded by - di.

Flowers, France

Flowers, France, originally uploaded by - di.

Sparkletopia and Muse to Muse, 2 blogs found

Creativity means letting go of trying to be "perfect" means being willing to be wild, silly and downright outrageous.
Christine Mason Miller

Two beautiful new blogs found.

I borrowed the quote from Christine Mason Miller's sparkletopia and over there, she reminded me of a blog I used to follow and lost somewhere along the way.

Muse to Muse is an online journal between two best friends seperated by the Altantic Ocean. They're just back from time in Italy and I loved the extract I found in Frida's post:

I’ve left Italy but Italy has not left me. It lingers on behind my eyelids and in crevices of memory. T’ai Chi meditation walk every morning on a lawn fragrant with wild oregano. A full moon in Strove near Montereggione, hanging in the night sky like a celestial apricot. The church in San Gimignano where I lit a candle for the dead.

Friday, January 11, 2008

A search for poetry on a Friday night. Inspired by V

Thanks v-grrrl.

There's something incredibly mellow about searching for poetry written by writers back home in New Zealand ... poetry that captures something I recognise or miss or simply love.

Waitakere Rain
Ernest Hemingway found rain to be
made of knowledge, experience
wine oil salt vinegar quince
bed early mornings nights days the sea
men women dogs hill and rich valley
the appearance and disappearance of sense
or trains on curved and straight tracks, hence
love honour and dishonour, a scent of infinity.
In my city the rain you get
is made of massive kauri trees, the call of forest birds
howling dark oceans and mangroved creeks.
I taste constancy, memory and yet
there’s the watery departure of words
from the thunder-black sand at Te Henga Beach.

Paula Green

When I reached In my city ... the poet truly won me over. She's describing one type of New Zealand rain in a specific place.

I love that about home - the rain in Tautuku is different to the rain in Abel Tasman National Park. The rain in Fiordland thunders down on tin roofs while in other places it was gentler, smelt different and yet it still felt like a cousin of all the other rains I've known in different New Zealand places.

So I loved this poem for the journey of remembering it took me on ...

Harvey and New Zealand Poetry

I love having Harvey on my links list ...

I know that whenever I need a good deep lungful of New Zealand literature, a sometimes neglected love of mine, I can wander over to Harvey's blog and read until I find something.

Tonight's poem was one of a series and it made both my daughter and I smile.

The txt

Mum come upstairz
my throats 2 sore
2 call out 2 u.

In firemother red
I take the stairs
two at a time.

Michele Amas

A little more on Sir Ed

New Zealand television on Sir Edmund Hillary's death.

The news breaking back home ...

I didn't realise how sad it would make me and so many other kiwis. Tribute books can be found in NZ Embassies the world around.
If there is any secret to this life I live, this is it: the sound of what cannot be seen sings within everything that can.
Brian Andreas

Borrowed from Andrea.

Sir Edmund Hillary, climber

The Belgian news reported sad news this morning.

New Zealand climber and first person to reach the summit of Mount Everest, Sir Edmund Hillary, died of a heart attack. He was 88. A state funeral is to be held for him.

Prime Minister Helen Clark spoke of him in the New Zealand Herald, "The legendary mountaineer, adventurer, and philanthropist is the best-known New Zealander ever to have lived. But most of all he was a quintessential Kiwi. He was ours - from his craggy appearance and laconic style to his directness and honesty. All New Zealanders will deeply mourn his passing.

"Sir Ed's 1953 ascent of Mt Everest brought him world-wide fame. Thereafter he set out to support development for the Sherpa people of the Himalayas. His lifetime's humanitarian work there is of huge significance and lasting benefit.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Via Via Cafe

Isn't it terrible when you're either not pretty enough or too old for the waiter to remember you asked for that second glass of red wine ...

I discovered Via Via Cafe here in Antwerpen and the delight is not only found in its relaxed interior, good affordable food and excellent music but there's also free wifi.

I was looking for a space out of the house, away from the madness and found this cafe on the internet. An explanation of how it began can be found here, along with an explanation of why these cafes can also be found in Indonesia, Senegal, Spain, Honduras and Tanzania.

You can find Antwerpen's Via Via in the older part of the city at Wolstraat 43, across the road from a Tram 10 and 11 stop.

I'll let you know if the wine turns up in the meanwhile ...

Update: I take it all back, the service is perfect here. The cafe is busy, the waiter forgot me. I just received my second wine 'on the house' ...

Alles goed here in the city.
If you know who you are, if you know what you believe in, if you know what you are fighting for, then you can afford to listen to folks who don't agree with you.....It won't hurt you.
Barrack Obama

Thanks to Erin for giving me yet another reason to admire Barack Obama.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Clown School II

Clown School II, originally uploaded by - di.

Circus Feet

Circus Feet, originally uploaded by - di.

Manic sent me this Electoral Compass Quiz to check who I would vote for if I was American by answering various questions.

Seems I'm a Barack Obama girl ... as if I didn't know that.


Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Social Orientation Class - Day 1

This time it appears to be bearable.

The mix in class is interesting.
2 Moldovans
2 Finns
1 Nigerian
someone from the Carribean (she lived in Montego Bay back there)
1 Dane
1 South African
1 Slovakian
and the New Zealander.

There are two photographers and the husband of a photographer within that small mix of people.

Today we discussed what we knew about Europe and Belgium in small groups. We also got to talk on interesting subjects like Turkey joining the EU (I can imagine your face on reading that, Shannon) and I even asked about BHV at the appropriate moment.

Manic had told me that if I could explain BHV to his Belgian self then I was orientated and had no need of class.
So I explained.
When I asked the teacher if she meant BHV as she was talking about the problems with Brussels, she kind of sighed and sat down and said that BHV was a very complicated thing that few Belgians understood.

I wasn't even being a brat, I had just assumed that she would have understood it.

Oh, other contentious issue was which city is the biggest in Belgium.
My man from Antwerpen says it's Antwerpen because Brussels only gets so big because they count all the communes ...

Actually Manic, it's like you read the lesson plan with your questions earlier today because I did end up saying but Brussels isn't a province, is it? when we were discussing the provinces question and that, my Belgian friend, was all because of you.


Some Ernie Awards offerings from the past

Australia Post, for:

1. telling female staff at the Bondi Junction Post office that if they wanted to be at the opening of the new Post Office they should lose weight; and

2. cutting the maternity leave of a worker from 12 to six weeks when her baby was born 13 weeks premature on the basis that this was 12 weeks earlier than the date she had nominated.

Tom Cruise once won for a past comment about his then-pregnant fiance: "I've got Katie tucked away so no one will get to us until my child is born ... [Katie's] life from now on was going to be about being a mother. I'm not giving her the chance to turn into another Nicole."

In the judicial category, lawyer Chrisovalantis Papadopoulos won the Ernie for saying a rape was only brief and "at the very bottom of the scale of seriousness," while the political prize went to Australia's Bill Heffernan who criticized his opponent, Labor MP Julia Gillard, for remaining unmarried and childless. "Anyone who chooses to deliberately remain barren ... they've got no idea what life's about," he said.

Got to love the Australian Male ...

Gert sent me a mail with news of this special little book ... The Ernies Book 1000 terrible things Australian men have said about women.

In 1993 a small group of women gathered to celebrate the retirement of the original Ernie, a notoriously sexist trade union official who claimed that the only reason women wanted to become shearers was for the sex. The event grew to become the Annual Ernie Awards, the world's premier event shaming men for outrageous sexism.

Fifteen years of Australian male chauvinist piggery is faithfully chronicled here with name, rank and serial number - from John Laws to John Howard, from David Oldfield to David Hookes, from Pat Cash to Paddy McGuinness and Australia's former favourite son-in-law, Tom Cruise. Chefs, archbishops, judges, footballers, shock jocks and politicians are all in our sights.

I never turned away from Cathy. No matter how fat she was...
Nick Bideau, Cathy Freeman's ex-coach and ex-partner

I bet she's now sorry she burnt her bra all those years ago (on Germaine Greer at 63).
Ray Hadley, broadcaster

Social Orientation ... again

My new social orientation classes begin today ...

I am promised that 'In this course you will get tons of important and useful information about life in Belgium, Flanders and Antwerp.'

This time I'm on the business English course however I've been warned that the same course book is used. The one that advises me to walk on the footpath when in the city.

I've been told I'll have homework, as I only have 5 weeks of one night per week on this course.

I can only imagine that they think I've lived inside a New Zealand bubble in Belgium till now.

Meanwhile I'm reading through an overview of the present political situation in Belgium and checking the English today. Tomorrow I'm starting a new photography project with immigrant kids here in the city. I attended an Antwerpen Alderman's New Year reception last weekend and this weekend I have another political function to attend. Lut introduced me to things Wallonian recently and Flanders Fields with its history of war has become a second home to me here in Belgium.

Me, have an attitude about social orientating myself in Belgie after almost 3 years ...?

As if.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Habib, originally uploaded by - di.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Viewed from my desk ...

We just had a TNT plane flying over and over us here in the city.

At one point it seemed to line up the runway and then roared off up into the sky.

Perhaps the pilot had seen the Wellington airport youtube and decided he too could entertain a Belgian-based kiwi ... then again, probably not.

Microsoft Research on youtube

My daughter emailed me a few youtubes ... stunning thought I, the non-techie one.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Abdellatif Laâbi, Poet

Little wave of pure joy
you are welcome
amidst an ocean of sorrows
Thanks to you I know
that it isn't pointless to hope for a truce
in the cycle of horrors
that in the notebook of love
there remain a few unwritten pages
that a friend long out of touch
will send a most unexpected message
that another life
with a brief but amazing flame
still awaits me in this life
Little wave of pure joy
put a smile on the faces
of all those these lines
will reach!

I found this beautiful poem over at Nomadics

Friday, January 04, 2008

One of the hazards of my life with family creatures in my house is that I can be having a perfectly serious phone conversation with Gert while cooking dinner and suddenly find that I am a shadow boxing target.

Explaining to a serious man in a supermarket on his way home from work why my concentration isn't so good is a tricky kind of situation to find myself in ...
In the beginning there is ignorance. Ignorance engenders fear. Fear engenders hatred, and hatred engenders violence. Violence breeds further violence until the only law is whatever is willed by the most powerful.
David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas

'Borrowed' from Kim.

This was the view from the front lawn of one of my favourite homes, Manic ... so different to where I live now.

Was he lucky to escape this?

What's a girl to do ... ?

I have worked sporadically throughout the house today, taking time to occasionally almost cough up my lungs.

I confessed over the phone to Gert that I had 'cleaned' 2 big rubbish bags of unnecessary stuff from our wash-house (laundry). I could hear he had that raised-eyebrow-smile thing going on but mostly he trusts me.

After a childhood of 20 years in one house, I've spent the rest of my life moving towns, cities and countries every few years, houses ... well sometimes I moved houses multiple times over a very short period while staying in the same town. All of which means that I am something of an expert when it comes to the downsizing of 'stuff'.

When moving to Istanbul, I was allowed 20kgs of free luggage, excess was a luxury and the same thing happened with my move from Istanbul to Belgium. I almost fainted over the 200euro bill for my excess book luggage and that was a discount because I looked so incredibly sad at 5.30 that morning in Istanbul airport.

So my point, and there was one, I know how to downsize ... he can trust me.

Resting, somewhat smugly, from my labours, I poured a glass of red wine then remembered.

Some things make me cough more than other things ... red wine is one of the worst offenders. I'm not sure what to do about it except wait for this moment to pass.

(The photograph: homesick, I've posted a photograph from my favourite post-divorce house. There were 4 - this was the one on the edge of Otago Harbour, the one that I wish I had bought, pre-Lord of the Rings housing boom.)

Food for Thought on Airline Security Post 9/11

Claudia pointed Peter in the direction of this very sensible article on airline security today in his comments section and I thought it was something worth posting forward.

Six years after the terrorist attacks of 2001, airport security remains a theater of the absurd. The changes put in place following the September 11th catastrophe have been drastic, and largely of two kinds: those practical and effective, and those irrational, wasteful and pointless.

It's worth reading ...

Experiences of an English Soldier in WW1 - blogged

Martin sent news of an interesting blog. It's all about the extraordinary story of a First World War soldier who is now keeping thousands of people around the world on tenterhooks after his account of life in the trenches was turned into a real-time internet blog by his grandson.

The Telegraph is running the story : Private Harry Lamin's letters home are being posted as an online diary, with each despatch published 90 years to the day after it was written.

Thanks Martin.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Belgian Crusine ...

What do you do when a friend invites you away for a girls weekend ... a mystery weekend, somewhere in Belgium.

Well you go ... so I did, never imagining the delights that were ahead of me.

It's taken me a few days to absorb the experience; an experience that included a drive into Wallonia, wandering through the ancient city of Huy, following the River Meuse, exploring Dinant before heading out into the countryside and Gilain Hostellerie in Dinant-Liroux where I ate some of the most stunning Belgian food I've ever tasted.

Lut picked me up at 10am on the Friday and we drove off in sunshine. She has this thing going with Saint Peter. She does the praying, he organises the weather. It's marvellous traveling with her.

We walked around Huy and already I could feel the photographer in me was happy.

Then on to Dinant, I didn't know but it was the town of Adolf Sax ... the man who invented the saxophone. So the trip was educational too.

And it was good to be out in the rolling hill farmland that is the Ardennes out that way - it felt like a small taste of home with lots of fresh air and empty space.

We pulled up at Gilain Hostellerie and Lut expressed a small concern that it might not be as good as it seemed when she booked on the internet however it was better than good. It was actually a small slice of heaven.

We were each shown to a beautiful room that took my breath, and then we wrapped up and went for a pre-dinner stroll through the tiny hamlet of houses nearby. Some photographs were taken amid much laughter, some locals were quite possibly made curious by the laughing leather and fur coat clad creatures in their midst.

Back in the hotel and I disappeared into the shower in my room. Two years in Istanbul with very dubious showers that trickled more often than not and I'm a great fan of good hotel bathrooms.

The bed, did I mention the bed ... I could lie sideways across it and then there was the balcony, the sun lounger and chair, the view out over farmland, the warmth and the incredible peace of the place.

But, then came the dinner.

Before the evening of 28 December, I have to confess, I had never experienced a gastronomical menu.

Every course was heavenly and small and beautifully presented by a lovely French-speaking waiter who informed us about the food and the wine accompanying each course.

Still a gastronomic innocent, we started out in the tasting lounge and were served with a red wine and blackcurrant syrup drink that I'd like to replicate one day. Little parmesan biscuits arrived first. Followed by 3 small elegant glasses of mousse ... that would be a pheasant, a mussel, and a veal mousse.

I savoured each mouthful, as did Lut.

The waiter invited us to move through to the dining room and there the courses continued.

A white wine accompanied the beautifully presented scallop and eel sauce with wild mushrooms.

Then came the tender venison steak that had been created by some magician the owner was obviously keeping in the kitchen, with a foie gras and bacon strip on the plate too and a red wine.

A small space and then out came hare ... both as small steaks and another small glass containing a stunning hare stew, and that new red wine.

Then there was the fully-stocked cheeseboard, and I shouldn't have but I did.

Then there was a dessert. A chocolate gateau-like cake, with special ice cream and things that went over my head because I had all but passed out from pleasure.

Rivesaltes ended the meal ... and I learned that I love Rivesaltes.

Laughing over the experience and clutching a bottle of water each, Lut and I retired to our rooms, having agreed to meet for a 9am breakfast.

3am and I sat bolt upright, sweating and oh so full.
I had eaten too many members of the animal kingdom and they were playing in my little round belly.

A little water, a little walk around the room and I climbed back into my huge and comfortable bed in my stunningly comfortable room and slept until morning, vowing never to obediently eat all dishes that any charming French-speaking Belgian puts in front of me again. It never occurred to me once that I couldn't or shouldn't eat all of the small venison steak, or that the hare that melted in my mouth might be too rich ... no no no, it was all about food and how sometimes, it's better than any other delight you can possibly think of.

I was scared as we strolled into breakfast, scared that I wouldn't have the willpower to stop when I should.

There was freshly squeezed orange juice, a pot of beautiful coffee, fresh bread rolls, croissants and a type of scone, proscuitto and cheese and this sunflower seed-type toast. The owner/chef seemed concerned when we said we didn't need anything else, I think Lut said something about muesli across the room - neither of us could imagine even finishing what was in front of us.

Heartfelt thanks and we were on the move again, following the River Meuse, stopping to photograph as rather elaborate castle and garden along the way - a Castle Freyr .

The owner of the hostellerie had suggested we pop in at Celles , just down the road.

And on into Givet but by then my head had been turned towards Belgium and nothing in France could compare or compete with what I had experienced while wandering.

Dank u wel Lut, for convincing me once and for all that Belgian crusine isn't all about Gert's Hutsepot and for showing me that Belgium is a more of a land of contrasts and history than I realised; a land of good people who really know how to prepare food, and of others who are stunningly kind to their friends.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

By crikey, kiwis are tough ...

"You don't win nothing for having a bull fall on top of you either.

"There's no money in that at the rodeo," Church said.

I'm sorry but I couldn't resist adding this story in the New Zealand Herald.

The choice is yours as to whether you read of the cowboy's annoyance over the incident ...

I love love love the way New Zealanders are masters of understatement ....and kind of cute too

You can read the story in full here in the New Zealand Herald but the section that had me smiling had to posted here.

... Marty Hoffart rowed his small boat out to the net he'd set off Papamoa Beach.

Instead of finding fish for dinner, he got a little more than he bargained for when he came face to face with one of the ocean's most capable predators.

He suspected something was wrong when he tried to drag the net in.

It was little more difficult than usual and it was a long time before the white belly of a 2.5m bronze whaler became visible above the water.

"Occasionally we get sand sharks but nothing this size. Two and a half metres is pretty huge when you're in a 2.5m row boat," he said. "Once I saw the huge white belly I had to stop and have a think. There was no way it was coming into the boat."

A neighbour, Ryan Orchard, paddled out in his kayak to give Mr Hoffart a hand. They decided to tow the shark to shore where a gathering crowd waited to get a look at the beast.

When they got to shore, they buried the shark, which was estimated to weigh about 200kg.

"I think a lot of the locals were happier to see it out of the water than in the water," said Mr Hoffart.

I love that that he was in a rowboat the same size as the shark but then reading that his friend rowed out in a kayak to help him was simply delicious.

Vive Kiwis!!

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

The first day of the new year in Belgie

Today is the day when Gert's family get together to celebrate the first day of the new year, his birthday and his brother's birthday (31 December) ... it is a day of much feasting and it was our turn to provide the main course.

And so we did.
Tavas ... a popular dish from the island of Cyprus; extremely easy to make.

And it was.

If you're cooking it, the house will smell divine and it tastes good too.
We did one with beef and another with turkey.

1kg (2 lbs) lean brisket or top rump steak, cubed.
500g (1 lb) onions, sliced finely
1kg (2 lbs) potatoes, peeled and sliced thickly
150ml (1/4 pint) groundnut oil
250g (8oz) tomatoes, chopped or a 250g (8oz) can, chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
300ml (1/2 pint) hot water
1 Tablespoon dried oregano
salt and black pepper

Oven temperature: 200 celsius, 400 farenheit, gas mark 6
Cook for 2 hours.

Stunning courses and wines were provided by all. Gert's brother's course surely fitted into the category of fine cuisine, his sister made a lovely soup and dessert (as usual) was overwhelming and left us exhausted.

It's not the worst way to spend that first day ...

New Year over Antwerpen by Gert, originally uploaded by - di.

It's difficult to do justice to what was out there with a shutter speed of 30seconds ... but here's a very fine attempt by the Belgian bloke.

New Year over Antwerpen by Gert..., originally uploaded by - di.

We couldn't resist, we woke little Miss Three so she could see the techni-colour madness that is Antwerp at midnight on New Year's Eve.

Gert went out into the cold with the camera and tripod while we raced from front windows to back windows - taking in the views of the city fireworks in the west, then back for the private displays of fireworks to the east ... actually no, there were private displays of fireworks going up all around us.

Miss Three told us that she had never seen anything like it, in awed tones ... but then that is Antwerp and fireworks. I feel the same ...