Saturday, 23 June 2007

The Sky

I love New Zealand. Especially the sky. Big and blue, it is the first thing I noticed here and still do, not like the grey cloudy skies in Scotland that sit on your head like a wet wooly hat. Although do I miss them as well. I think it is the houses, Scottish houses are taller and closer together. Here most are still single story and far apart. And in between, all above me is the sky, up there, over there, and, just a second . . . yes - way over there as well. I feel as if my spirit could just grow to fill the whole space with nothing to hold me back, at one with everything.

The sky - an opportunity, a promise. The world is mine.

ps thanks to Nicola for the picture - clive square in Napier

Pumpkin soup

Sunday 8.45pm

This is becoming a bit too depressing - time for something comforting, Pumpkin soup I think.

here is the recipe that I use

1/2 onion, 1 clove garlic

- fry gently 5 minutes or so in oil and 1/4"slice butter till onion is clear

cut say a 3" piece of pumpkin scoop out seeds and peel

- turn up heat, add pumpkin and stir till pumpkin browns and blackens at the edges

- add 1 1/4 pints 1/2 strength vegetable stock ( say 1 dsp stock powder or 1/2 a stock cube )

- add a tomato or two chopped or 1/3 tin tomatoes drained

- reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes or so till pumpkin is nice and soft.

- cool a little then liquidise

- salt, pepper to taste and adjust thickness with more stock if neccesary - should be thickish and velvety.

This is the basic recipe.

Today I added the following

1/2 a cinammon stick
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 finely chopped small red chilli

- fry all these very gently in a slice of butter and some oil, going carefully so as not to burn the spices or the butter.

- take off the heat and add -

1tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp of turmeric

- allow to warm through and add to the soup

or if you have no spices just add say a teaspoon or so of curry powder to taste to the soup or warmed in butter first.

You can vary the soup as you feel eg-

-add some bacon with the onions at the beginning
- a big handfull of spinach with the stock
- any vegetables you fancy could go in with the pumpkin eg carrots or celery or courgettes, whatever. I would probably only go for one other to keep the flavour clean.


We all end up alone in the end

Sunday 6.30pm at home

I am sitting alone at the table after Sunday dinner. I have spent an hour preparing it, twenty minutes eating, and now I am sitting amid the debris that will be here until I clear it up. I set the table for four but only Nicola and me were there. Middle son is out, the youngest is in front of the telly moaning as usual, and the eldest has just come in, loaded a plate and gone back to his bedroom without a word as is usual around me at the moment. Nicola and me were talking and I made the mistake of saying that sometimes I feel depressed, that after coming out of the pictures the return to mundane real life depresses me. Like that post holiday depression you can get. I have said it before and I will probably say the same thing again, but of course every time she takes it the wrong way, as a critisism of herself and with a " thanks very much " she goes of in a huff. So here I am, alone again. I wonder if this is how it will end one day - we will wonder apart into different rooms and not speak, a bit like the couples I have seen in cafes, together but seperate - strangers it appears.

I really hope not.

Thursday, 21 June 2007

Sleeping with different women

Tuesday 6pm Hong Kong airport

Isn't it strange that you can spend twelve hours less than six inches from someone and not say a word. We are all jammed in tight here, all our personals spaces overlap - not speaking, pretending by mutual agreement that the other people do not exist makes it possible. It is eleven thirty my time, we have been fed and now the blinds are down and the lights are off - time ot go to sleep. But nobody can sleep sitting upright facing forwards so we all start shuffling about, this will only work if we all turn in the same direction. The woman on my right turns to her right and curls up, great, I turn the same way. Ok I am now overlapping her seat but we are not touching and I can stretch my legs out - bliss. I prop my head against the head rest and go to sleep. Hang on a minute she has turned back ! Now we are both in the same space, her space. She pushes my leg with her foot a few times but I am comfortable so pretend that I am asleep (with small children at home I have had lots of practice at this ). The shuffling about continues until she is comfortable, our legs tangled up, elbows touching on the armrest. We sleep, on and off myself, but not bad. The chinese girl on the previous flight spent most of the flight asleep on my shoulder. It is a bit like an unhappy marriage, except that I do not dislike this other person, I do not even know her name. Well, much, much, later the lights come on and breakfast is served. Time to break the rules I think, lets try communication. Her name is Sharon, she is going to Sydney and Likes shopping.My name is Peter I am going to Auckland and like photographing plastic food in foreign airports. Hmmm perhaps I should have said hang gliding or scuba diving I think then it strikes me - I have just asked her name over breakfast ! Now it is more like a drunken one night stand. Thankfully we sink back into silence for the rest of the flight and do things properly, not even saying goodbye.

Getting old

Sunday 10pm

It occured to me today that growing old is a process of becoming more and more isolated. Old people seem to withdraw into themselves. Children can become totally absorbed in a game but it is not the same as the elderly person in the street who does not seem to notice the rest of us. I suppose that as we age everything wears out - eyesight, hearing, even taste and smell disappear. So you are bound to lose touch if there is no input. And routine becomes increasingly more important, doing the same thing in the same way, always at the same time of day. Is all this natural ? probably. Should we worry about it or try to change it ? my initial reaction is no, instead recognise it and work with it, but I'll have to return to this subject.


Saturday 7am

My God, Galashiels is rough. The people are rough, grey, dusty and uncared for just like the buildings. Okay like an airport at six in the morning, sitting in a pub midweek lunchtime is not going to give you a balanced view of things, but I am looking at a bleak future here. And it is not me being snobbish, it is really like this. I am too happy for those around me, I usually am, but then I am on holiday. The barman almost broke a smile but it was hard work. A lot people can hardly stand without leaning against something. They manage to stagger as far as the bar, feet hardly lifting off the floor, slumped tired posture, they look small and deflated like left over balloons a few days after a party, but of course there never was a party, the invites went out but it just didn't happen. It is like a parasite is slowly sucking the life out of them until you just die. Younger folk have that wary aggression that reminds me of the wildness you can see in baby animals before we tame them. For "tame them" read "break them", suck out their spirit until they have no fight left and slowly go mad staring at the bars and only dreaming of what might have been. When we mentioned we were emigrating we heard it all the time - " we thought about doing that " people would say, but for some reason or other did not. It was nothing to do with the reasons, it was that they could not escape from that clinging lethargy surrounding us, conformity is everything. I have escaped, and there is no way you are going to get me back.

Tuesday, 19 June 2007


Friday 10 pm

I do not know about you but there places in my life where I have gone to sit and just think. Every place I have lived tends to have one such place, usually outside in the countryside and usually high up where you can see a long way. They have become almost chapter headings to my life, places where I muse about where I am now, where I have been and where I am going. Yesterday I went out taking photographs and went past a couple of these places. One of them from oh... fifteen years ago. I would get home take some beer and drive off there and just sit. It still feels good today - at the edge of the hills, just me, the sheep, birds calling in the distance and the occasional passing car. At dusk I would sit looking towards Berwick Law and the Bass rock watching the clouds pass and lights come on, listening to the wind and the birds and the foghorn on the forth sometimes. I wasn't happy at the time. I enjoyed being there - probably my most favourite place that I have lived, but there was a deep loneliness and emptyness to my life. So much has changed since then, especially Nicola who filled that empty space in my life, but it was good to go back. Strangely enough back then, I must have been looking towards where she was at the time. The bigger picture. It is so easy to get caught up in the day to day worries that years can go by, but if you take some time to think about where you are now, where you want to be, and how to get there it will happen. Like fairies, like platform 9 3/4, you just have to believe.


Thusday pm - driving around taking photographs

There are houses being built everywhere. I keep turning a corner and there is a new estate under construction in what were fields last time I looked. It is like a giant monoploly board rows and circles of houses all exactly alike except for the colour. These are not countyside houses either, they do not sit in the landscape gently sprawling out sideways, but are modern estate houses. Each one is detached with a tiny fenced garden. Two stories, integral garage and room for the conservatory to be built on the back, you can choose "white" or "brown". Who buys them ? I suppose it is people from the city who want to live in the country, young people I imagine starting families I expect, and want to escape to somewhere nice away from the broken glass and discarded needles of Edinburgh. Of course they have brought the city with them. And in fifteen or twenty years time will these estates be full of bored teenagers rubbing up against each other and the people until combustion occurs, because there are no shops or amenities that I can see. Everybody drives nowadays so driving back into Edinburgh to Asda or Tescos is not so bad, but what if petrol prices go up ? And I worry about the countryside. I feel this is probably a blitzkreig approach by the developers - they have jumped out past the green belt and will build and build and gradually peck away back inwards until there are no green spaces left. If we keep building will there be enough farmland left to feed us all. There must be a tipping point where we have to import more than we grow, and imports depend on oil prices again.
I have a bad feeling about this.

Monday, 18 June 2007


Well actually not dirt because it is all clean but tattiness - cracked things, flooring not stuck down, exposed pipes in badly fitting mountings with several layers of lumpy emulsion on top. They are all clean but do not look it. The bathroom has a bath in the middle of the floor with tons of space round it. The sort of bathroom you could eat a cadburies flake in. Look in any design magazine and this is one type of bathroom people really want. You put an old fasioned cast iron bath in the middle, pipes are exposed but polished copper and brass or enclosed in a chromed pedestle and that is it, finished, apart from Helena Bonham-Carter and the chocolate ( I know it wasn't her in the adverts ). And what is here ? a plastic bath, boxed in with some sort of cracked melamine boarding and aluminium edging strips, yuck. I have noticed that as long as the materials are hard wearing ( so no plastic ) it is where they join that tends to wear out and look rough. A porcelain sink or bath is fine but stick it to the wall with silicone rubber that soon peels and stains and your beautifull woman has called a taxi. And if all this sounds a bit sexist just pick an All Black or two and put him in the shower and you will get what I mean.

The Room

Thursday morning 6am

You know they could design these places better. I am lying in bed looking around. The room I reckon is quite well done and yet could be better. Beside the bed is a bedside table and lamp on one side and on the other is a fridge with a microwave and kettle on top along with all the bits and pieces, cups, teapot, teabags, biscuits etc. All of these things share one double socket. Looking around there is one other double socket in the whole room. My computer is plugged in there and the cable runs across the floor to the bed because the is no table to put it on. Ok not everybody's best friend is a laptop but you might have a hairdrier or want to plug a television in. At the end of the room opposite the window and past the two single beds is a space with a wardrobe, a chair, and a pine chest. Quite nice but this space is big enough to fit a whole kitchen in, or even an on suite bathroom, or just a writing desk. But no electrical sockets. It is not money. Sockets cost only pennies and you have an electrician already here wiring them up, it is not going to take much longer to put in a few more. It starts with the specifications and design. This place was designed as sheltered housing for old people, but really it is just the same as a hotel - compact apartments, sitting room, kitchen, bedrooms, bathroom storage and thats it. There will be slight differences to suit the older people, they nearly all have a zimmer frame and wheelchairs must be common but you know that before you start. It is all modular as well - each apartment is going to be the same so once you design one you have done them all. It is not lack of knowledge either - there are million of hotels out there, posh ones, basic ones, nice ones, horrible ones, all designed by somebody. Is it money then ? This is a private company so presumably makes a profit or at least breaks even, but saving a few pennies and ending up with something that works badly is losing sight of the whole reason for doing it in the first place.


Wednesday morning 8am

Hospitals scare me. Not in a " boo ", jump, ha ha way but deeply in that place under the bed or behind behind the wardrobe in my mind. A place so deep and so frightening that I am scared to even think about it. It is not death that scares me. If I was run over tomorrow, ok I would be a bit pissed off but it happens. I think it might be the slow run up to an inevitable death that is the problem. It is what torture works on - the fact that is going to happen and there is nothing you can do about it. Lack of control ? - perhaps, it certainly explains my abhorrence of animal experimentation.
This was all brought on by the bathroom here. There is a big shower enclosure, but also a bath with one of those chair lift things over it. Modern hospitals are not to bad, it is mostly beeping electronic machines, but wartime or fifties hospitals with their clumsy mechanical stuff like iron lungs absolutely petrify me.

I think I may have some issues that need addressing here

Sunday, 17 June 2007

Flying to Edinburgh

Britain is very flat. Not flat like glass but rounded and smooth like a newly made bed. And old. Old as in worn down over time. New Zealand on the other hand looks new, more like a piece of paper that you have crumpled and spread out again, all sharp edges and flat planes. Have just flown past the lake district. At least I think it was - the lakes were there but the mountains I remember have gone, replaced by small hills. Now Edinburgh is coming past and it is tiny. Absolutely beautiful - green spaces,trees, old sandstone buildings but a lot smaller than I remember. Must be the way that the forest you played in as a child turns out to be a small row of bushes when you return grown up. " the world just keeps getting bigger once you get out on your own " as Tom waits said. The places are all still the same but my perceptions have changed. Travelling round the world and seeing how big it really is has also expanded my own horizons. It is true what they say - how we see the world is decided by us, we create the world we live in. And it can be changed - anything is possible, you just have to believe.

London Heathrow. 6am.

First impressions.

It is all a bit grey and grubby compared to Auckland and HongKong. They were clean and shiny.
The people are grey as well, nobody smiles and nobody makes eye contact except for a buddhist nun and a couple of lesbians holding hands. I can see that they are all people just like me but closed down and smaller somehow. This is the city of course, this is how you live. Look at the ground or where you are going, have your bag close where you can see it especially when sitting, keep inward looking in your own thoughts and world, do not get involved. There are people laughing and smiling but again cocooned in their own worlds with barriers up to keep everybody else out. Ask a question and the response is friendly and helpfull but still quick and guarded - get it over fast and get back into your own world where it is safe and predictable. Looking around the people sitting I can get responses - a look returned, a half smile in response to my own, but also attitude and a sort of unsure defensive aggression especially from teenage boys in groups. There are none here, it is too early and you need a boarding card to be here, but I have seen it on the street elsewhere.
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