From theWomen I Know and Admire Series - Diny Naus

This beautiful series of images popped up on my Facebook wall this morning and I wrote to the photographer, asking if I might share them.  To put them together in this small montage, some cropping was involved.  Apologies to Diny but the story is more about her than about them.  I want it to be about her way of seeing and being, out there in the world ...

Diny and I met when she attended a photography workshop of mine.  She flew in from Hong Kong.  I arrived from Belgium.  Two New Zealanders, together in Genova.  We wandered and became friends.  It turned out there was so very much to admire about her.

Seeing her series from Beijing this morning made me realise, again, just how lucky I am to have women like her come into my life.  The photographs reminded me of the extraordinary privilege in meeting curious courageous wandering women like her.  There have been so many now.  With their permission, I would like to start sharing their stories, and photographs. 

But Diny ... Introducing her series, she wrote, 'Yesterday snapped this guy who'd managed to find his little piece of peace and quiet in this city of 20 million. I showed him the photo and he insisted I get in the hammock so he could shoot me. I love these interactions. Beijing people are very friendly!

And I thought yes, the people are friendly but you have that sparkle, that curiousity, that courage too!  And her eye ... in a city of 20 million she found this oasis of peace :-)

My client base seems to be made up of women living in countries not their own - but not always, I remember that small group of beautiful Genovese women I once spent the day working with in their city.

Women who are over 40 - but sometimes they're not.  They all have this delightful spark though.  Wise women, old souls who share deeply in the atmosphere that forms when women work together.

Women who are single, or have no dependent children, or women whose children are grown - but then again, sometimes none of this is true either.

My clients are women who are quite fearless and full of curiousity.   They are usually intelligent, wise, and laughter is usually a feature of our time spent together.  As is confusion, frustration and delight.

But sometimes it's all about feeling the fear and doing it anyway ... because they don't want to be fearful anymore.  Fearful of traveling alone, fearful of photographing strangers, of asking permission to photograph those strangers, and most of all, fearful of the techno-speak that has confused so many of us when kind men explain things very very technically.

I have to confess that t took me years to break through and learn the simple equation that is how your camera works.  That's what I share during these workshops, the simple equation via a series of exercises.

And so you can see, the workshops always end up being about more than photography.  With Diny, and so many others, I also get to experience the benefits of their wisdom, knowledge and courage. I meet new heroes and role models. 

I came away from my time with her, admiring so much about her and being able to keep up with her stories of life out here in the world ... it's simply inspirational. 

I have this idea that we need more women like her to write of their lives, share the magic while being honest about the struggles too.  Diny does that for me ... and sometimes, on a sunny Monday she gives me permission to share something of the beauty she found in a Chinese city of 20 million.

Grazie mille, Diny.  For both the use of your photographs, and for your friendship.

It's been a while ...

So much is happening my world that I haven't been able to find the words to write of it all ...

Genova was the most incredible experience.  One that left me even more in love with that city and its people.  It also left me needing my own mortar and pestle because who wants to buy jars of pesto when you can make it yourself.  The trip left me exhausted, as I traveled most of the Friday and Sunday, with my feet only in Genova for 36 hours, perhaps.

My daughter and Miss 11 have moved to England and so I've been working with them on the move, and have Miss 11 here with me ... home-schooling and enjoying having her back in my life.  I had missed her so terribly much.

I'm enjoying my new life in Surrey.  Spring has arrived.  Today, as I write this, it's 23 celsius and we're like cats in a field of catnip, just rapt about the fact that winter is over.

A few weeks ago, I was invited to join a group of women who now make me feel welcome, who make me laugh too, every Wednesday evening. They're a wise, wonderful, wild group.  We drink wine and talk, and I feel so very fortunate to know them.

Cathy, hostess for those Wednesday evening gatherings,  loaned me a beautiful pair of Liz Claibourne black heels, to go with my first-ever little black dress when I was in Italy.  She was that fairy godmother who said, 'but you must go to the ball ... in heels!! 

Wednesday night she handed them back to me, saying she was stream-lining and no longer needed them. 

I suspect Cathy is like that. One of those beautiful souls with a huge heart.  I know others like her around the world, just a handful, and feel incredibly blessed to have met her here in this Surrey world.

I have two adorable small children in my everyday life too.  They make me smile, so often ... and the chocolate brown labrador.  He's still making me laugh with his lovable goofiness. 

Then there is Marcelle, owner of Merci Marcie, the cafe here in Oxshott.  Miss 11 and I enjoy calling in there to catch up with her news, enjoying the tea, coffee and cake.  Seeing Franca, the lovely Italian and Becky, another wonderful woman I'm getting to know.

I haven't found a pub yet.  In some ways, I'm quite isolated socially but summer is coming and that walk through the woods won't be so bad if the sun stays up longer.

London is becoming familiar ... kind of.  I keep staying in, or exploring, new places.  Last weekend was spent with Clare.  I spent a month living with her back in Istanbul, that Australian I still adore so many years later.  She has a second baby, just new, and it was so good to go catch up with her. 

And Miss 11 got to stay with her mum on the Saturday night, although the city trek was 'interesting'.  I had no clue about where I was, nor did I realise it would take an hour to bus to the meeting point, somewhere on the other side of London ... but central.  I hadn't researched it, as life had been mad-busy and so ... completely reliant on Clare's sms's, I crossed London, and returned, all the time feeling strangely disoriented, aware I knew nothing about where I was.

Feel the fear and do it anyway seems to be the thing these days.  From accepting an invitation to visit a womens business networking group, to crossing London via smsed instructions ... mmmhmmm, wings do grow once you step off the edge.

And the weight continues to drop.  I have lost 15kgs now (about 30 pounds I believe).  I'm the strongest I've been in years, and enjoy the fact that I can walk miles, carrying-much ... easily.

I am dressing better, as happens when you shop in secondhand shops, otherwise known as charity shops, here in Surrey.  I love that I can source exquisite secondhand clothes, especially as the world becomes aware of the human cost of cheap and new.  For the first time in many years, I have two dresses.  I've tried on others but I am quite particular.  And secondhand shopping is all about luck really, which makes it all the more fun.

The community Chatter Bus, and its drivers, continue to delight me.  The English are so kind.  I keep saying that but it's been true.  And I love that when I'm a little displaced in London's Underground, I can just ask, and some smiley helpful staff member will help. 

All said, if I'm honest, it's been up and down in this new world, and sometimes I wake at 5.30am, quite terrified about how to go forward however .... the feeling passes, and I go forward:-) 

More amusing, is the fact that 5.30am has somehow become my new wake up time.  The sun comes in through my window and voila, I'm awake.  I use that time to plot and plan and drink espresso.  I have a new favourite breakfast in this world.  2 espresso, 2 bagel thins, covered in butter and wild blueberry jam. 

Breakfast has always been my holy moment ... I was relieved to find I could recreate that holiness out here in this new world.

Photos and stories will follow.  I just wanted to stop and catch family and friends up on 'lately'.  I think this kind of does that.

London tomorrow ... meeting Jessie somewhere in the city.  But I'll map that out tonight.  There's something kind of lovely about being out here in the country, surrounded by wood but still just 35 minutes from London Waterloo.

Just so you know ... I'm doing okay. 

Today ... a day of photographs and interviews, and friends, in Genova.

Today ... with my beautiful award for being that New Zealand competitor.

And my truly incredible friends. 

Without Davide, Alessandra, and Federico, my weekend would have been something else.

Grazie mille to those who taught me a recipe that only had a little too much salt when it mattered.  I am now completely committed to Pesto Genovese made with a mortar and pestle.

The 6th Pesto World Championship ...

Here I am, almost overwhelmed by the joy I feel on returning to Genova.

The photograph possibly captures some of that ... mmmhmm, and in my hands ... that's the bowl of pesto I learned how to make last night.

The journey here was a story in itself but once I arrived in Genova, life became so very busy and full of good people.

I caught up with Davide, Alessandra, Federico and Isabella, at Villa Migone ... that exquisite 15th century house here in the city.  I had my pesto lesson out on the balcony, 17 celsius, generous people and beautiful food.

We ate at the grand dining table, and the pesto ... truly superb.  'John Lennon' played 'Let it be' and it went home with that in my head.

There is so many more stories but I need to return and compete soon.  I have the recipe firmly fixed in my mind, I hope.  I have learned about the soul of garlic, I have learned quantities, and how to beat and grind those ingredients into the sublime sauce known as Genovese Pesto.

I have met old friends, made new friends and, as always, Genova city has made me feel like I have come home ... to the home of a favourite family member, a best friend.  It's a city that, for me, seems like a powerful entity in its own right.  A city I'm so glad I am coming to know.

And the scent of Paola's apartment wrapped itself around me when I arrived, the streets smelt of favourite things, like good coffee and pizza, focaccia and all kinds of other scents that I've missed. 

And last night I fell into bed, hands covered in the perfume that is basil and garlic. 

It was a good day.  Wish me well.  I'm competing, with 100 others from around the world ... in one hour.

"How one man got the world making pesto by hand", writes BBC

I had the good fortune to meet, interview and photograph Roberto Panizza, the man who has the world excited about making pesto by hand.  Here, I caught him in a rare quiet moment, at Il Genovese, the restaurant he and his brother own, in the city of Genova.  I cannot say enough good things about the restaurant ... the menu, the quality of the ingredients, and the friendliness of the staff there.  All are superb.

But Il Genovese is only one of many projects Roberto works on ... more on that in another post.

This weekend, I get to catch up with the man, as I fly in to take part in the 6th Pesto World Championship, hoping to be that New Zealander who makes a good pesto.   While there, I plan to gather as many stories and photographs, as is possible while competing. 

This event is an event that grows larger each time it is held ... a sign, I think, that the world is so very definitely embracing a return to the authentic ... in this case, to the old-fashioned way of making pesto while incorporating a recognition of the growing importance of good ingredients.

Their website tells the story of how it all began ...

I love the idea that it was created in the 90's, by group of friends who had a passion for gastronomy and for the art of being a bon vivant.

They came up with the idea of organising a World Championship for Genoese Pesto, using the mortar ...  Made with a Mortar, Campionato Mondiale di Pesto Genovese al Mortaio and the championship has gone on to become this huge international event that showcases Ligurian excellence.  But more than that, it has become a way of introducing the world to this ancient city, with its fascinating and complex history, loved by the likes of Charles Dickens, and so many other, including this Kiwi.

The association also promotes the culture of cultivating good traditions that start in infancy. It has a non-competitive contest for children, the Campionato dei Bambini, and offers other events dedicated to the little ones during the Rolli Days.

The BBC article is here.

The official recipe is here, on the website but the ingredients ...


  • 4 bunches of fresh PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) Genoese basil, which guarantees high-quality taste and flavour
  • 30 g pine nuts
  • 445-60 g aged Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 20-40 g Fiore Sardo cheese (Pecorino Sardo), grated
  • 1-2 garlic cloves from Vassalico (Imperia)
  • 10 g coarse salt
  • 60-80 cc PDO extra-virgin olive oil from the “Italian Riviera”, renowned for its sweet and fruity taste, which adds flavour to the basil and dressing..