shininglikeadiamond flies the nest

27 02 2011

Yes, it’s true, shininglikeadiamond has grown up and flown the nest. My new blogging/cyber home is lizziemeates.com – please feel free to visit my new site and catch up with me there.

Lizzie

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Love is a banquet on which we feed*

13 02 2011

I am incurably romantic. 

I state that as a fact and with no apologies. Roses and romantic gestures are always welcomed by me – besides I like Bon Jovi and Jon is a king of the rock ballad. 

However, I don’t do Valentine’s Day.

In spirit I love its intention – a moment to appreciate your significant other is a sentiment that I endorse. But Valentine’s Day as it currently exists? I find the whole mass commercialised event incredibly un-romantic. As a society are we so without grace that we are unable to celebrate love with spontaneity? Do we really need one day a year where the notion of romantic love is shoved down our throats until we are ready to choke? I am inclined to think not and as a society I certainly believe that we could learn to appreciate love with spontaneity (and at least more than once a year).

This year I will pass Valentine’s Day as a singleton. Oh yes, I said it – I proclaimed it to the blogging universe – I will spend Valentine’s Day as a single person. Scandalous!  Or not really. I don’t feel any shame in being single. In fact, after the heartbreak of my last relationship, being single is a comfort. I certainly don’t see why I should need a ‘survival guide’ to navigate my way through today. I see it like this: if you’re in a loving relationship – fantastic!! If you’re single and enjoying it –fantastic!! Love should be celebrated just because it exists, not just because it is the 14th of February. That is true not only for the love that exists now in your life but also for the love that has existed in the past. Yes, my last partner broke my heart six ways till Sunday, but despite some of the rather painful moments in that relationship (and there were some corkers) there were a few good moments. Those are moments that I celebrate, the rest were just lessons that needed to be learnt.

My philosophy for love is simple: celebrate the love that you receive from your partner, your family and your friends and reciprocate with even more love and do this often and sincerely. Life is too short to do anything less and love is far too precious to be horded and kept in the silent dark.

* Patti Smith Group ‘Because the night’.





Evidence of Spring

13 02 2011

I was walking through Russell Square yesterday when I stumbled upon my first daffodils for the year. Daffodils! Daffodils just radiate that warm glow of Spring and combined with the clear & crisp early afternoon their appearance proclaimed “Spring! Spring is coming! Winter is ending!” I was quite excited. I do like Winter. I  like wrapping up in scarves and mittens and hats and large warm coats. I even enjoy the early evenings – they are perfect for doing nothing of great importance and are a great tonic for the hustle and bustle of Summer’s long evenings. Then there’s Rugby. The dark and the cold are borne much better when there’s a good game of rugger on. However,  after a while I start to get itchy feet. That is when I start to look out for the first signs of Spring and daffodils are one of those portents. However, I won’t get too excited too soon. London is relatively warmer than nearly all of the UK, once I start seeing Daffodils popping up at my parents (who are a little further north) – then I’ll consider putting my warm winter coat into the dry cleaners.





Year of the Rabbit

6 02 2011

Run, rabbit run/dig that hole/forget the sun/and when at last your work is done/don’t sit down/its time to dig another one

Well, January just disappeared on me and now I find myself six days into February. As I missed uploading a New Year 2011 post in January, I am going to make up for it by posting a Chinese New Year epistle for February instead. So, welcome in the Year of the Rabbit! Not just any rabbit, but a metal rabbit at that. Wicked. Though what I think of when ‘metal’ and ‘rabbit’ are mentioned in the same breath (left) is most certainly not what the Chinese intended.

According to the Chinese, the Year of the Rabbit promises to bring a more placid year after a frenetic Year of the Tiger. Diplomatic bunny hops instead of roaring fits and starts – the eyes of the rabbit are apparently more gracious and amiable than those of the tiger. Considering the current state of worldly affairs a more placid and considered year wouldn’t go amiss. I certainly have plans, goals and resolutions to accomplish this year. I’ve updated the Resolutions page to reflect some of these – I am sure that posts of the subject will appear during the year.

There is also plenty to look forward to this year. Last year I posted a list of events that I was looking forward to in 2010 – of those the Football World Cup in South Africa was a standout for me. After 28 years away from this competition New Zealand acquitted themselves with style and came out of it the only team to remain undefeated by securing three draws, including one against Italy. The All Whites’ result was exceptional considering their rather modest world ranking and that we don’t have our own professional league (only a solitary professional team). Looking ahead to the rest of 2011 there are three events in particular that I am looking forward to – two of these are general events, while the third is more personal.

  • The Royal wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton (April). I wasn’t around for the nuptials between Prince Charles and Diana so this will be the first really big Royal wedding that I will be able to celebrate. I also have a soft spot for William (no, not for those reasons). Being of the same age I’ve kinda grown up with him over the years and it’s really pleasing to see him tie the knot with Kate. I’ll be watching the wedding on telly or I’ll be standing in the Mall, or maybe I’ll do both (unless by some chance I receive an invitation, though I’m not holding my breath). I may even hold a party with bunting, tea, scones and as much naff Royal and English paraphernalia as I can find.
  • The Rugby World Cup, New Zealand (September – October). I love rugby, it is just that simple. I actually love watching most sports, this weekend was especially good in that regards as both the Six Nations started and the Super Bowl will be kicking off later tonight. However, rugby union is a particular favourite of mine. I’m also looking forward to it being held back in Aotearoa. I’m backing the ‘Blacks to go all the way, beating the Wallabies 24-31 in the final.
  • Returning to New Zealand for my Grandma’s 100th birthday (August). I haven’t written about my Grandma before, but she is easily the most awesome of all awesome people…ever. This August she will celebrate 100 years on this planet, which is a length of time that I just can’t quite fathom. So much has happened during her lifetime that it just boggles the mind. Needless to say the holiday back to NZ this year is beyond special. Expect more on this later in the year!




Wellington (Part Two)

30 01 2011

Wellington isn’t just the political capital of New Zealand – it is the café-loving, artistic capital of the country. After my last post, which focused on its more political and practical aspects, this post is dedicated to some of my favourite artistic aspects of the city, starting with its waterfront.

The Wellington waterfront is in its own right a piece of art. Centuries of the earth’s sculpting meld and give way to man’s more recent contributions. It is a fitting backdrop for the Wellington Writers’ Walk and other works of art that follow the shoreline. The Wellington Writers’ Walk consists of nineteen excerpts from New Zealand authors that are either about Wellington or have a connection with the city. These excerpts are scattered along the waterfront on benchmarks and large concrete slabs and form a walk that aims to promote New Zealand literature to the wider national and international audience. I loved this walk – it was like a lyrical scavenger hunt, searching for the next slab or bench and reading its excerpt. The quotes interspersed in this post were all taken from the walk, the photo (left) is of Denis Glover’s excerpt.

The harbour is an ironing board/flat iron tugs dash smoothing toward/any shirt of a ship any pillowslip/of a freighter they decree/must be ironed flat as washing from the sea (Denis Glover)

Along the waterfront and behind Te Papa is Solace in the Wind, a sculpture by Max Patte (right). Standing at two metres high, it is of a man leaning forward into the cross-gale wind with his arms back and a look of consolation on his face. Wellington is a windy city – gale force winds are not uncommon and umbrellas are rarely, if ever, used (they normally end up inside-out and useless, tossed into the nearest rubbish bin). Most Wellingtonians are so accustomed to gale strength winds that if you were to ask them to describe the strength of the wind when it was blowin’ a gale, they would reply with something like “just a bit of a breeze, mate” – meanwhile you watch the laundry escape from the washing line (despite multiple peggings) and make a bid for freedom. There have been moments while absent from the capital where I have missed its wind – there is something both reassuring and (paradoxically) calming about it, even when it was trying to blow you over. Perhaps that was why I felt a sense of affinity with this statue. 

Their heads bent, their legs just touching, they stride like one eager person through the town, down the asphalt zigzag where the fennel grows wild…the wind is so strong that they have to fight their way through it, rocking like two old drunkards (Katherine Mansfield)

Between the harbour and CBD is the City to Sea Bridge. More than just an ambulatory path into the CBD, City to Sea is an interactive piece of art with sculptures by Para Matchitt of whales, birds, celestial representations and symbols of love. It has seats and various peepholes along the way, I particularly liked the bird that lies across the footpath with its large glass bottle eye (right). Heading towards the city end of the City to Sea Bridge is a Te Aho a Maui (Maui’s line). In Māori mythology Maui was responsible for fishing up the North Island (amongst other heroic exploits). This piece references that particular exploit and consists of waterfalls and a pyramid shaped mountain from which Maui’s line unravels in terra-cotta hues (left). At the CBD end of the bridge is Civic Square and suspended above it is Ferns, a spherical sculpture of fern fronds by Neil Dawson (right). The ferns in the orb balance the sculptures of nikau palms that are set as markers around the square. Whether lit up by the city’s lights, or gleaming under the beams of the sun, this sculpture has an ethereal quality. 

Then out of the tunnel and Wellington burst like a bomb it opened like a flower as lit up like a room, explained itself exactly, became the capital (Maurice Gee)

Another favourite is Wai-titi Landing, a sculpture of two Pou Whenua (Māori boundary markers) by Ra Vincent. Although the site is now a park on the corner of Molesworth Street, it used to be a beach and resting place for waka used by Te Atiawa and other Taranaki whanau. The carved figures on the Pou Whenua symbolise the people of the land while the kōwhai design carved on the inner surface represents the wairua (spirit of the land). 

Then it’s Wellington we’re coming to! It’s time, she says, it’s time surely for us to change lanes, change tongues they speak so differently down here (Vincent O’Sullivan)

Plimmer Steps is a pedestrian street between Lambton Quay and up to The Terrace. At the Lambton Quay end is a statue of John Plimmer (the eponymous gentleman of the Steps) who ambles down the path with his dog bouncing along beside him. This statue has been in Wellington for as long as I can remember and I really enjoy its sense of movement and camaraderie. On various days during my trip I noticed that the dog had been decked out in scarves and shoes. Sadly, these articles then seemed to disappear by the next day, although I did capture a shot of a be-shoed canine (left).

I love this city, the hills, the harbour, the wind that blasts through it. I love the life and pulse and activity, and the warm decrepitude…there’s always an edge here that one must walk which is sharp and precarious, requiring vigilance (Patricia Grace)

One very famous Wellingtonian is Peter Jackson, notably as the director of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Weta Workshop (the special effects and props company behind LOTR) is located in Miramar, Wellington and at the top of Courtney Place is Tripod, a sculpture by the company. Tripod is covered with paraphernalia of the film making business and the insane amount of detail on it is what makes it an especially awesome piece.

 

 

Yet I think, having used my words as the kings used gold, ere we came by the rustling jest of the paper kings, I who am overbold will be steadily bold, in the counted tale of things (Iris Guiver Wilkinson – pen name Robin Hyde)

Cuba Street is possibly my favourite street in the city; I loved living there before I left for the UK (despite some of the sounds that emanated from the karaoke at Blue Note on Sunday nights). Named after an 1840 settler ship, Cuba Street is an eclectic collection of businesses and pedestrians and has a bohemian feel to it. Midnight Espresso, one of my favouritest cafés, is situated on upper Cuba. It has a typically Cuba heterogeneous mix of customers and serves excellent coffee topped with an awesome menu. The final installment of Wellington art for this post is one that I am especially fond of and can be found further along Cuba Street: it is perhaps the most naff, but most endearing, sculpture in city. The Bucket Fountain was designed by Burren and Keen in 1969 and consists of a series of primary coloured buckets which collect water until they are forced to tip into a large blue bucket at the bottom which in turn empties into a pool beneath it. Well, in theory it empties into the pool beneath it, but due to the Wellington wind it is not uncommon to get sprayed on windy days by falling water from these buckets. The sculpture has a very child-like quality to it, an adjacent child’s slide and clime-able tuatara add to its sense of frivolity. The fountain’s lack of seriousness is perhaps what makes fit so well in its surroundings. Running through the garden sprinklers is one of childhood’s small pleasures, dodging the Bucket Fountain on a windy day is the grown-up equivalent of that pastime.

It’s true you can’t live here by chance, you have to do and be, not simply watch or even describe. This is the city of action, the world headquarters of the verb (Lauris Edmond)

 

I have uploaded more photos onto Flickr – so feel free to check them out!





Wellington (Part One)

19 01 2011

Salutations and welcome to the first post of 2011! I hope that this year has started well for you all. Apologies for the delay in posting my first epistle of the year, however I can report that this year I have resolved to post on a much more frequent basis. I also have plans for this blog – here’s to the year of shininglikeadiamond!

Text from Maurice GeeAs I wrote in Hijacking Rainbows and Christmas 2010, I journeyed to New Zealand in December where I spent time back in Wellington with family and friends.  This and the next post were inspired by the trip back home and the opportunity I had to re-visit some of my favourite things in my favourite city with renewed eyes after two and a half years away. 

Wellington is absolutely, positively the best little city in the world.  It sits nestled between hills and harbour and has a vibrant mix of suit-and-tie CBD and tie-dyed bohemia.  About a 30 minute drive north from Wellington is Porirua, which is a city in its own right and part of the greater Wellington region.  I have fond memories of growing up in and around Porirua.  Over the years I moved a little further south to Tawa, one of the outer suburbs of Wellington.  During this time Wellington Railway Station became a daily destination for me as I travelled in and out of the capital for school, then university and finally work. I became accustomed to the station’s nuances, nooks and crannies and in the end I came to really enjoy passing through it on my daily commute. As the station is such an integral part of the city, and since I have spent a fair bit of time passing through the building, it seemed somewhat fitting Wellington Railway Station was the first of my favourite things. 

Wellington Railway Station is, as far as railway stations go, an attractive building.  It was completed in 1937 and was at that time the largest building in the country; it is currently New Zealand’s busiest station.  The façade of the building reminds me somewhat of the clock tower in Back to the Future, which may add to its coolness factor.  The station even has a claim to international fame – it was used in an advertisement for thetrainline.com (the one with all the sheep).  I find this amusing as 1) they have used a New Zealand station to advertise travel solutions for within the UK and that 2) they have filled it with sheep. 

Next to the station is Westpac Stadium (right).  The stadium was built in 1999 and its yellow seats are visible from the plane as you fly into Wellington (the city’s colours are yellow and black).  I have been to many a rugby game at the stadium and also the odd concert.  While I have a strong attachment to the old Athletic Park, the stadium still makes it as one of my favourite places in the city.  I have dearly missed attending the Lions, Hurricanes and All Black games that have been played there while I have been in the UK.

Outside the front of Wellington Railway Station is one of a series of signs that can be found around the city.  These signs use a three-dimensional image as visual embellishment.  Wellington Railway Station’s sign (left) has a train on it, while the sign for Bunny Street has a Buzzy Bee and the sign for Cable Car Lane has a cable car (both below).  I reckon these signs are pretty awesome, they are certainly more enjoyable than your average street sign. I made a point of taking a photo of each during my expeditions to the city.  These signs also point the way to my next two favourite Wellington things for this post: the parliamentary grounds and cable car. 

As a Wellington Girls’ College student, one of the routes to school took me past the Beehive.  This was my preferred route to school – in part because it took longer, but also because I enjoyed the parliamentary scenery.  New Zealand’s parliamentary buildings consist of the Beehive (right), Parliament House, Parliamentary Library and Bowen House (which is across the road).  The Beehive is probably the most iconic of the buildings and its nickname clarifies why the sign on Bunny Street (right)  has a Buzzy Bee on it and not a rabbit.  The reason for a Buzzy Bee in particular (as opposed to a common garden bee) is that the Buzzy Bee is an absolutely iconic Kiwi childhood toy (I had one growing up).  When Charles and Diana visited with baby William in 1983 one of the photos from that tour was of them and William on the lawn of Government House (Auckland) with a Buzzy Bee.  I imagine that if the Buzzy Bee did not exist (and what kind of world would that be?!) that William would have received a toy sheep instead.  The parliamentary grounds are also a favourite spot for lunching Wellingtonians on warmer, dryer days.  I’ve spent more than one lunch time lying under the trees there. The photo (right) is my particular, favourite spot: warm but with enouigh shade to avoid the worst of the Kiwi sun.

The Cable Car is the last of my favourite things for this post.  It is one Wellington oldest tourist attractions and an icon of the city.  It runs between Lambton Quay and the Wellington Botanic Gardens, stopping at The Terrace, Kelburn Park and Victoria University on the way.  During my first year at Victoria University, I used the cable car on a near daily basis to get to lectures.  There is a good reason why the Cable Car is a tourist attraction. Aside from the history of it, the views from the top are stunning.  If there is one thing about Wellington that I love, it is that no matter the weather – no matter how skin-scorching the sun is, or how knock-you-over strong the southerly wind blows – the view of the city and its harbour always take my breath away.  The city’s landscape has a blend of rugged and tamed that makes it indescribably beautiful.  There is a saying amongst Wellingtonians: “you can’t beat Wellington on a good day.”  In truth, you can’t beat Wellington on a bad day either.





Christmas 2010

27 12 2010

The Christmas holidays is a time of year that is inextricably linked with the cooking (yay!) and then eating (hurrah!) of food.  This year I was fortunate enough to be able to travel back to the land of All Blacks and Hobbits where I celebrated the festive season with my kiwi family and friends.  Unlike Christmas 2009 I wasn’t responsible for a full multi-course meal, however I did spend some time in the kitchen cooking.

The cooking started at my friend Cat‘s house with a group of us and an all day Bake-a-Rama. The goal was to create a treasure chest of treats that could be brought out when required for visitors during the Christmas holidays.  After the measuring, sifting, mixing and baking Cat’s kitchen table was flooded with dozens (and dozens and dozens) of cookies. Clockwise from the top we created the following:

Gingerbread Cookies
White Chocolate and Strawberry Cookies
Dark Chocolate and Apricot Cookies
Mexican Hot Chocolate Snickerdoodles
Passionfruit Melting Moments (still to be iced)
Shortbread
Cathedral Cookies
Iced Spice Cookies
Iced Sugar Cookies

 

A Caramel Fruit Cake was then also added to the booty of culinary treasures:

Needless to say, visitors to Cat’s house have had a selection of baked goodness to choose from while having their cuppa tea.

More time was spent in the kitchen on Christmas Day where I cooked breakfast and then dinner for my brother and his young family.  Since I was spending Christmas with small children I knew that the big day would start early…which meant that I had to start even earlier.  I set my alarm on Christmas Eve and by 0630 on Christmas Day I was up and about cooking the pancakes, moving around the kitchen extremely quietly so as to not wake the smaller members of the household.  I finished the double batch of batter just before the small ones invaded the lounge and the carnage that is a children’s Christmas started.

Once the carnage had ended and the little ones were out visiting the Grandparents I started on a batch of Delia Smith’s Vegetarian ‘Sausage’ Rolls (the same recipe that I used last year) and the Christmas dinner.  As I mentioned in the Christmas 2009 post, a roast Christmas dinner is a tradition in our family.  This year I opted to not do a full roast and instead settled on a smaller cut of cow for the family which I served with roasties, fresh peas, maple-glazed baby carrots and onion and mushroom gravy.  I reckon the peas and carrots were the best bit, especially the peas.  I love fresh peas, I even love shelling them, bizarre but true.

Being able to spend this festive season with family and friends that I haven’t seen for over two years has made Christmas 2010 just that little bit more special.  I hope that this festive season was just as enjoyable for you as well.

See you in the new year,

Lizzie

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