Sainsburys ...

I try to keep the wonder-filled child out of sight, quietly hidden inside of myself, when I wander the aisles of Sainsburys in these early days.  I've been 12 years out of the English-speaking world, 12 years far from home and all that is familiar, including the English-influenced food down in New Zealand.

And that's been fine.  I loved so much about Turkey that there was always some thing that would delight and/or surprise me.  There was the food that became favourite food ... the Dil Peyniri, (string cheese) was divine.  I loved every kind of Börek, and İskender kebap was pretty much my idea of heaven.  I loved most of the food I found there.

Then fast-forward to Belgium, and the outdoor Saturday Market was my new place of delight and wonderment for a while.  The cheeses from France, the crusty breads, the olives, the fresh fruit and vegetables ... the market was that place we always meant to go Every Saturday, not just with guests, as it turned out.

I had favourite chocolate shops, of course.  And that restaurant, in Grote Markt, serving good Flemish cruisine was the place where I liked to take friends.

But Sainsburys ... it's kind of like being back home, with foods and ingredients not seen in a long time.  I'm making a Carbonara tonight and had to buy bacon ... but which bacon became the big decision.  Then I found a garlic crusher, on sale, for 2pounds 50 ... just after giving up, imagining they didn't carry them.  I went to buy cheese but ended up with a President Brie, from France.  A brand known to me because there were a million other choices ... choices that read divine but I was overwhelmed by it all and played safe.  This time.

They stock my new breakfast of choice food - Warburtons thin plain bagels.  Lovely with butter and raspberry jam ... or with the President brie, it turns out.

Don't start me on the biscuit and chocolate selections, also so very familiar to me ... and anyway, I'm resisting almost all of them.  But they're there, and I seem to slip back in time when I wander that aisle, remembering those early morning cups of tea at Nana's - with shortbread and similar biscuits to those seen on the shelvesin Sainsburys.

The wine guy is a lovely bloke.  Half Italian, a quarter English and Irish.  He's so passionate about his wines, and knowledgeable, of course.  He was helpful when I found myself bewildered by a whole new selection of reds, all completely unknown to me.  No old friends to be found on those shelves.

And the people ... they've been lovely.  Of course.  It's England.  So far, so good with the people.

There's a Starbucks on site and, much as I can't stand their coffee generally, the espresso is okay when no other espresso is possible.  I'm quite the monster about coffee ...

I had imagined I might give it up over here, without my beloved coffee machine.  And while I was at it, I've been thinking about stepping away from the red wine too however ... perhaps a little bit sometimes is more realistic.  And kinder.

My CV is written.  First draft.  I would definitely get me in for an interview.  Actually I would hire me too :-) 

Today's image is light on a leaf, captured as I made my way to Sainsburys.  As I write this, it's overcast and windy now, with light rain.  Peri the cat is having a crazy moment and flying around the room in pursuit of invisible creatures ...  She makes me smile.

So that's today, so far, in England. And yeah ...I think Sainsburys is kind of fabulous.

Alice Phoebe Lou and her Berlin Blues Song

Alice Phoebe Lou wrote this about her music video, 'This video means a lot to me as it goes from my present in Berlin winter to the memories of my past growing up in Cape Town. My father filmed these childhood moments and last year he came to Berlin for a week and we became really close and he filmed bits and pieces of our journey together.'

I love it.

Another Way To Go Home ...

I love when I use some simple product, like hand cream, and it transports me back to one of my homes ... riding a memory.

Destination 101 Islington Street, Invercargil.

Nana's house.

The square brick house that backed onto Turnbull Thomson Park, the house with the glasshouse that filled with tomatoes in summer.  Where the soul of the house was located in the body of the coal range Nana cooked on.  Where there was a garage, with accordion-like folding doors that fascinated me.

As children, we watched the trains pass by on the tracks at the back of the park.  The excitement of seeing them, counting the carriages, receding as we grew older. 

Today I drifted back in time, to Nana's red formica table, there in the kitchen.  To those early morning cups of tea we had before breakfast, dunking our Griffins wine biscuits while Nana skim-read The Southland Times.  Her most beloved newspaper, always.

Today's hand cream was L'Occitane.  A plain one, for dry hands.  So simple and yet it became some kind of time machine that allowed to me to revisit Nana's kitchen.  To remember her red lipstick, stored up on the ledge above the range.  And the small mirror she used to apply it, hanging there on a nail near the breadbin.  The ticking white clock, with its heavy tock and black hands ...

I remembered the creak of the door to the hallway, remembered the smell of that house that gifted me such a strong sense of home that, after so many years, I find it's still there in my memories.  Just as it was.

New Zealand ... and a dawn chorus

Last night, after an lovely afternoon and evening spent in the company of old friends, Gert and I fell down the rabbit hole into sleep.  It was 8pm, and it is probably more accurate to write, we plunged into sleep.

It's 4.30am as I begin this, here in New Zealand, sitting up in bed, laptop on my legs, typing as the Bellbirds begin the morning chorus ... I'm so glad to be home.  

Actually, if you select Dawn Chorus, on this page, you'll get a sense of what I am currently listening to, here in this city of just over 1 million people. It's a city like no other I've known.  There is always the sea and so much nature, in the most beautiful way. 

But I would say that, wouldn't I ... perhaps 'the most beautiful way' is going to be code for all that is familiar.

Yesterday, after our second long flight to the bottom of the world, Peter and Christine met us at the airport (with some mad Hobbit character, who I feared was an old friend in disguise - an exuberant character who would surely mortify me. He wasn't and didn't.) After the hugs and the tears (Christine and I) they introduced us to 'their' Auckland city on the drive home to Christine's parents.

Then came lunch on the balcony and it was no ordinary lunch ... it was a kiwi 'almost summertime' lunch, just like Nana and Mum used to make.

I, who rarely drinks tea now, had a big cup of tea in honour of those women I've lost.  There were the sandwiches filled up with fresh lettuce, hardboiled egg, tomato, and cold roast chicken, with options of cheese and of ham too.  And that big bowl of fruit and the sweet juicy delight of a fresh New Zealand orange.

It was bliss because it was familiar ... bliss because I was sitting there with old friends on the inside a New Zealand family again, bliss because the neighbours called in just as they always had back in my childhood home.

Late afternoon found me barefoot and in the sea, as captured by Gert back at the top of this post.  A mild sea, pale-turquoise and so inviting, writes this woman who forgot her swimsuit ... or togs, as we call them here in the land downunder.

Dinner was Snapper, fresh from yesterday's ocean, and exquisite, of course.  Followed by a huge bowl of  strawberries and ice cream.

And we were finished.  I was suddenly at a point of exhaustion where I completely undone.  Some deep  breathing got me to sleep, calming my senses and bringing me back from that place of complete overwhelm.

Our first day in New Zealand ... old friends who welcomed us in that kiwi way that is so familiar ... a mix of humour and tears, and so much kindness too.

Today we begin our roadtrip south with them.  Christine and Peter had long-ago suggested we fly in to Auckland and that they would drive us home to their place in Wellington, pointing out it would be a great way for Gert to get a taste of the North Island but erhemm, South Island girl that I am, I haven't done this drive either. 

We will be wandering off to Rotorua and Taupo today.  There may be one or two photographs taken along the way, much laughter, good food and some hours spent with some of the kindest kiwis I know.

Thank you to Christine and Peter Kirker, for that friendship you offered when I was a newby airforce officer's wife, for all those cups of tea and homemade baking in that sun-filled kitchen of yours on Base Woodbourne, and for keeping this friendship warm all of these years I've been gone.  It is so good to be back in your lives again.

Meanwhile the NZ seagull who shared his waters-edge with me yesterday.


Things Left Behind ... (written in 2006)

Thing: an object that one need not, cannot, or does not wish to give a specific name to. (things) personal belongings or clothing. 2. an inanimate material object, especially as distinct from a living sentient being.

This morning it occured to me that my life has been so much about leaving things behind ...

And it should go without saying  that I miss people more than I miss things ... mostly but today I was thinking of things missed.

I lived in one house until I was 20 and so nothing prepared me for the constant stream-lining of possessions that lay ahead of me. I moved house at least 11 times during my 14 year marriage to a high school teacher back home.  And then, 4 times after the divorce,  before leaving for Turkey.  There were two homes in Istanbul and now here I am, almost possessionless again here in Belgium.

I had so many books, over 400, a beautiful desk and chair, and a bed that I loved, back in New Zealand ... photo albums, a material history made up of precious things.

I left my winter clothing in Istanbul, with other things abandoned when my excess book luggage cost me a cool 240 euro.

I was flying back there in September 2005 anyway, on my way home to New Zealand but I haven't managed that yet.  The Belgian distracted me and here I am, still waiting to be legal.  Then legal to work.

Here, in this new life, I have two journals, a laptop full of photographs, my cds and dvds, my camera gear and my books.

The oddest things make me remember those things I've loved in other places.  Yesterday I bought a new cup. I love beautiful cups and this cup, its shape, its colour, how it fits in my hand ... it's perfect.

The new cup made me nostalgic for beautiful things left behind ... in Istanbul and in New Zealand.

Mostly I don't think of these things but sometimes, just sometimes, I miss them.

Past Lives and Memories

I struggled with how to title this post but I knew it had something to do with the nostalgia inspired by scent and a yearning for familiar things…

I woke early here in this Istanbul world and decided to get up. I’ve been alternatively working on photographs, with an occasional detour out into a new book I’m devouring but don’t have much time to read - The Attack by Yasmina Khadra, is worth checking out if you’re looking for an interesting fiction about suicide bombers.

It’s too early for anyone else and there is the promise of hot fresh borek if I’m patient, so I quietly found a banana to eat while my Turkish tea stewed in the top pot.

The banana was ripe and breaking it open delivered me back, just for a moment, to my childhood of bananas bruised by their trip to the river’s edge in our picnic box.

Savouring that scent here in Istanbul, so very far from the world I grew up in made me stop to think about the way that scent has been taking me ‘home’ lately ... the way that smell has become something akin to an album of memories I carry inside of me.

You see, there is a particular soap I use occasionally, it’s one that transports me directly back to a childhood of happy visits to Nana and Grandad’s Invercargill house. And a colleague of mine delights me by smoking the same cigarette brand that Nana once smoked, a long time ago. Gidon is less than excited by this fact that he reminds me of Nana ... as he is younger than me.

Shampoos and conditioners pick me up and transport me but they come from so many periods of this strange life of mine ... there were those childhood toiletries, then there is that one I used in America, another was discovered in Istanbul and they too offer a surprisingly powerful journey into memory.

It’s like that these days but the house is waking now - remembering took longer than I expected and my tea-glass needs refilled. Soon there will be piping hot borek in my tummy and here I am, creating a whole new set of memories in this different someplace else.