At first I was put off by the tone of this book.  It seemed to me arrogant and brashly American (even though the author is Canadian), and in parts it read like an outdated men’s personal growth manual.  Because it was our Book Discussion Group’s choice for this month I persevered to the end, and liked the second section more than the first.  There was lots of detail about being an astronaut, and I appreciated this more because I’d recently read ‘Hidden Figures’ about the African American women who were crucial to the space programme.

I enjoyed reading of the author’s singing David Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’ in zero-gravity in 2015, and remembered seeing this clip on the TV News.  I could also relate to his saying that one of his small satisfactions is playing Scrabble online with his daughter.

The whole book seemed a little smug to me, even though Chris often denies considering himself as being extraordinary.  It’s just not possible to be the first Canadian in space and not be special.  If you’re at all interested in the space programme I’m sure you’d find his story fascinating.

‘It took him years of preparation
before he got to the space station.’





Prohibited Posting

I went to a local postal services agency to post my Xmas parcels to daughters in the U.K.  Note, I didn’t go to a Post Office.  Those don’t exist any more.  There are still a few Post Shops, 80 out of 880 post outlets, but NZ Post plans to close all Shops soon.  They like you to organise your parcel posting online and use their courier service, but this is not practical for many people.  Postal services are now located inside chemist shops, bookshops, and supermarkets.  I use these rather than organising postage online as I like to think I am keeping workers in jobs.  For the same reason I eschew the self-service tills in the supermarket.

My presents were wrapped and just needed to be placed in a postal bag and weighed, once I’d filled in the address and customs declaration.  I’d carefully ensured that the contents of each bag were valued at less than $70 (£38) to avoid VAT being charged at the other end.  The staff member perused my declaration and asked me to confirm that the bag included a fridge magnet.  It did, and I hadn’t realised that these are now forbidden to be posted.  They are listed under ‘Other Prohibited Items’ along with Animals (except correctly packaged bees, leeches, silkworms and harmless insects).  My sealed bag had to be cut open, ditto the wrapped package inside, and the magnet extracted.  I’m not an expert parcel wrapper, but this one will look even more amateurish than usual when it finally arrives.

The forlorn fridge magnet is now residing on my filing cabinet, and I’ll be even more careful with my choice of gifts in future.

Sheepish magnet

‘The sheepish magnet could not go
the other gifts were deemed righto.’

This recipe was in the latest ‘Your Weekend’.  Of course I adapted it slightly, substituting walnuts for peanuts because I have a good supply.

Chocolate Drop Walnut Brownies

125g butter softened (microwave 25 secs)
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 ½ cups plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp cocoa
½ cup chopped walnuts
100g dark chocolate drops

Heat oven to 175C
Cream butter and sugar
Add egg & vanilla & beat well
Add flour, baking powder, & cocoa
Mix in together with nuts and chocolate drops
Roll mixture into walnut-sized balls
Place on greased baking tray
Flatten slightly with wet fork
Bake 13 minutes
Will keep in airtight tin for up to a week
Makes 36

The original recipe said bake 10-15 minutes until lightly coloured.  It’s hard to see when chocolate biscuits are lightly coloured!  I left them in for 15 minutes.  They were absolutely fine, but I thought they could have been more chewy, so would try 13 minutes next time.  These brownies are not as rich as the recipe I usually use, and will be a useful addition to my baking repertoire.

‘These choc-o-late nut brownies are
sure to be greeted with hurrah.’


Plaudits for Promenade

Sunday was the official opening of the City Promenade.  This time I walked the whole way with a friend.  We started at Manchester Street, completed the Scavenger Hunt, and handed in our cards at the far end opposite the Antigua Boatsheds.   Despite a drizzly day (unsuitable for beach walking) there were lots of people on the Promenade.  We saw a choir, a band, face painting, and stilt walkers.  At The Terraces children were given bamboo sticks with meat on the end so they could feed the eels that live there.  We met a volunteer who gave us vouchers for the Black & White Coffee Cartel who opened a branch near Pegasus Arms earlier this year.

Of course we were happy to get a free drink, and buy something to eat.  We sat outside where we could watch the passing crowd and hear the music.  The City Promenade is a great addition to the inner city and one I shall be walking often.  Another Anchor Project finished at last, it was originally planned to be completed four years ago.

‘Although it took time to create
the Promenade was worth the wait.’









Ekphrastic Poetry

Yesterday I enjoyed a workshop taken by Lynley Edmeades, Ursula Bethell Writer in Residence, and hosted by the Teece Museum of Classical Antiquities.

Titled ‘Getting Inside with Words’ the workshop focussed on ekphrastic poetry, which is the poetic description of a pictorial or sculptural work, i.e. the verbal representation of visual representation.  Probably the best known example of this is John Keats’ Ode on a Grecian Urn.  After reading several examples, we went into the Museum and chose an item to write about.

Publia Fulvia Plautilla

I chose a bronze head of Publia Fulvia Plautilla.  The interpretation given was that she was one of several members of the Roman Imperial family whose image and name were overthrown during the early 3rd century C.E.  Her politically ambitious father Gaius had married her to the young emperor Caracalla.  Disliked by her husband, she was eventually executed under Caracalla’s orders and wiped from public memory.  This process was known as Damnatio Memoriae, condemning the individual.  Here’s the piece I wrote:

Marriage arranged
by politically ambitious father.
Your imperial husband
ordered your execution
third century domestic violence
has echoes today.

Wiped from public memory
Damnatio Memoriae your fate
shared by sisters through the ages
lives erased and forgotten.

Yet your bronze head endures
heavy-browed eyes raised upwards
imploring a Goddess to intercede
wondering will it ever end?

Pleasing Promenade

The City Promenade has its official opening tomorrow.  As I was heading to the Arts Centre I took a preview.  It’s wonderful to have parts of Oxford Terrace which have been closed off now open, especially as there are new pedestrian/bicycle traffic lights wherever the Promenade crosses a road.

New section of Promenade between Manchester and Colombo.

There are signs on the path indicating the Promenade, and items of interest such as the Horse Watering Ramp in Victoria Square.

A family of paradise ducks were having their own promenade.

Paradise ducklings in Victoria Square

The riverbank beside the Convention Centre site is open again.

Promenade towards Gloucester Street

This new pathway gives cyclists a safe route to ride into the central city, especially if we want to go to the so-called West End (i.e. Arts Centre or WEA). I love it!

‘The promenade is safe and pretty
and gives new access to the city.’



On Tuesday night there were high winds, and a horrible grinding noise on the cottage roof.  I worried it might be iron lifting, but Stephen was confident it was the scraping of a cherry tree branch.  Next morning we checked and a branch was indeed resting on the roof.  We got steps and saw, and in a combined effort, removed it.



It was sad to see so many evolving cherries terminated, but they are all ones the birds would have got anyway.  We’ve covered the lower branches we can reach.  There’s still one high branch above the cottage that we couldn’t safely get at.  Now we have to wait for the next high wind to see if we’ve solved the problem.

‘The grinding noise disturbed my sleep
therefore that branch we could not keep.’