Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Dreaming of a White Christmas.

There's something to be said about Christmas trees. Fake or for real, they generate excitement.

At my home, 12 days before That Day, a well-loved cardboard box (bearing original price sticker from the 70s) is brought out of storage and contents inspected before decorating the tree begins.

Mrs Santa Claus is made of red and white felt, stands around eight centimeters tall with a black leather belt and a cotton stitched smile that could melt an exhausted reindeer's heart. Her partner, Mr Santa Claus, is attired similarly but his face is gruffer - like a goat chewing a discarded bicycle inner tube. By the way, titles were always a sign of respect and may mean a grander gift from the Jolly Man Himself who, according to parental knowledge, could be listening down the chimney at any time of the year.

A set of six brass bells comes next, chiming delicately, held by red ribbon bows - individually no bigger than a British penny. Older than the box, belonging to generations past, they are tarnished but still sound sweet. Their origin, unfortunately, is long forgotten but every year they are the decoration fought over, favoured by all ages.

"Careful with those; be gentle," admonishes an adult as several glass baubles are unwrapped from tight tissue cocoons. Held close for viewing, within sit bright-breasted Robins encased by a snow flaked sphere. A cold Christmas is an enigma for me, a southern-hemisphere girl, and as a child the fragile globes created a sense of wonder at how others celebrate this season around the world.

Next are the handmade ornaments; clay slabs painted by five-year-old fingers in their first year at school. Unglazed, unfired, rustic and rudimentary. The parents' favourite of course. Tinsel coils are then unrolled, loop by fraying loop. A sparkling array of green and blue strategically positioned on scratchy pine branches. They've seen better years but this tree is themed by tradition, rather than colour or cost. It is a family ritual, an event.

Candy canes come last, almost as an afterthought, but before them is the celebrity of the show. My family is not of a particular faith, believing a star is what wishes can be made on, whether shooting across a night sky or placed at the top of an evergreen. It is a symbol of hope and togetherness, which is important - because this year there will be no decorating the tree for me.

There will be no Mrs and Mr Claus dictating scary Santa scenarios. The tinsel will remain tightly wound, the once-a-year ceramic memories will lie buried beneath silent bells. The shining star will cast no Yuletide magic.

But those birds in their breakable orb might just fly free to show me their realm as the temperature drops by the day and this southern hemisphere girl looks forward to her first ever white Christmas.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

W. W. You. Do? (And the day I rode the carousel.)

A few years ago there was the WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) fad. Now I’d just like to state, first of all, this is not a spiel about faith, God or musings of the spiritual kind.

I’ve been thinking about influence these past few weeks and maybe this would be better titled ‘What Would Who Do?’. Because no matter what creed you follow, having someone who motivates you to challenge yourself can’t be a bad thing. Right?

On the fleshly side of life, call them what you will: role model, super hero…friend, this is the person who makes you consider your options, be resolute in decisions – jump off the cliff believing you’ll be okay. It was this person who said to me before embarking to unknown lands, “If an opportunity comes your way, go for it!”

That’s why I decided to ride the carousel.

Built in Victorian times, chiming tunes like an organ grinder’s monkey, noble steeds and cockerels circle in rows of three. A thousand bulbs shed iridescent yellow light illuminating gold serif writing and prancing hooves.

Astride Milly (appropriate in the circumstances) I see young and younger choosing their chargers. When a bell rings the carousel starts, quickly picking up speed. Faces whizz by, anonymous, cameras poised and I think in another time and place I don’t know if I’d do this…this child’s thing. This space usually relegated to the under 10’s. Why? Because it’s too youthful? Too un-adult like?

What would you do? What would who do? What would I do? Take the opportunity and see what happens…

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Art of Courting

What does a woman want when she's being wooed?

It's a good question, and one that has caused many a male to furrow his eyebrows.

This week I was fortunate enough to walk the lake edge of Stourhead Estate in Somerset, England. Think bodices, pantaloons, top hats and parasols. Ancient woodlands flow up and over hills, temples worshipping Roman deities provide discreet alcoves, a boathouse must have stored vessels at one stage to engage in water rendezvous...it's a place where the imagination comes alive and you can picture young couples conversing, strolling, admiring the sights as they wandered the winding path.

Somewhere in between the Pantheon and the Temple of Apollo I said out loud, "Imagine being courted here!" And it got me thinking.

What does a woman want? Well, I can't answer that. Sorry. Every woman's different and it would be unfair of me to say they all want bunches of wild flowers or blocks of Swiss chocolate.

However, I'm of the opinion that being wooed has a wow factor. Maybe those Victorians knew what they were doing in The Art of Courting with their hand-written poetry, the deliciousness of not daring (or being able) to touch and come on ladies, how many of us haven't looked at Mr Darcy in his tight pants complimented by tailored waistcoat and thought: [parental guidance recommended].

Saturday, November 13, 2010

If you could be a Christmas decoration, what would you be?

Garrison Keillor once wrote: A lovely thing about Christmas is that it's compulsory, like a thunderstorm, and we all go through it together.

Sitting at airports, waiting to board, gives a traveller time to muse about things. Bristol airport was where it happened. The thought: 'If you could be a Christmas decoration, what would you be?'

Now, this might seem a bit odd but sometimes, especially getting older, we need to release some imaginative juices and tap into a journey that may just teach us something in the process.

So...do you consider yourself something obsolete, stuck at the back of the tree where no one sees? Or perhaps you prefer being the star attraction or a snug length of tinsel nestled in pine needles...

This is how I see things. A particlular decoration would have come to mind. For me it's a set of brass bells which my sister now has. They belonged to my mother's side of the family but are a mystery, their origin forgotten. At one time they were hung by red velvet ribbon. I like them because of their mystery, their sound (they still sing) and red velvet seems a bit royal and sexy. Heck, I can relate to that.

But how about that angel, gazing from on high with her gauze wings, wired limbs and sweetly stitched smile? (Sorry guys but I've honestly never seen a male angel at the top of an evergreen.) Angels are something other-worldly, Heaven sent perhaps to watch over Christ-mas proceedings. To be honest, I've always enjoyed a star at tree's top; a guiding light, wishful thought, conveyor of hope.

What about Christmas baubles? Now those globes have history. First produced in Germany, on sale since the mid-1800s, they were originally glass spheres linked like a chain which hung from branch to branch. Now they come in all colours of the rainbow and are more likely to be found as a plastic six-pack with fake frosty covering. There are, however, those that are unique, a one-off never to be repeated - simply put: stunning.

How about a box of peppermint striped sticks? Something everyone eyes up, waiting for the go-ahead to partake in. Candy canes are special, a treat that only comes around once a year. Their presence is anticipated and that first taste always delights the senses.

What about frilly tinsel or flashing lights circling up in an on-going hug? They aid other decorations by bulking up bare branches - a helpmate creating festive cheer or a beacon for gifts assembled underneath.

So what are you?

The one with a bit of mystery? The type who lights the way or is unique? Perhaps, simply put, you're stunning. Or maybe you're the person who's a one-a-year highlight but time spent in your presence is worth the wait. Could be you're an assister; in the right place at the right time with arms open wide.

Whatever you think you are, remember we go through this time of the year together. For the sake of the decorations (and all their hidden meaning) let's make it a great one.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

An Island Off the Coast of Spain

I've always been fascinated by stories featuring mermaids.

Imagine my surprise finding a restaurant at an island off the coast of Spain serving mermalade. It got me thinking...

Languages are intriguing. There's thoughts, probabilities and possibilities about how they all came to be. Words give definition to our daily lives. We respond or react according to our understanding of language ~ be that verbal or non.

How much credit do we give Shakespeare or other writers of plays and such through the centuries who've added to our repertoire...and is that English or French or does it really matter?

Why not mermalade ~ a delicious condiment created in the minds of seafarers dreaming of their lady love back home on dry land? The interpretation is not mine to give.

Monday, October 18, 2010

A Dose of Dublin

In Dublin you can't escape the sense and the scents.

The sense of wonder at the history of the city; the scents of cigarette smoke, rotting rubbish and day-old urine left by drunks.

She is still stunning however.

Ireland, as a whole, is a country who's had her fair share of abuse through the centuries and her people have not gone down without a fight. Many a story is told on tour (and in bars) of rebellions and uprisings and battles fought and mostly lost. Their warriors are legends though, held aloft with reverence even in the face of what some might term their hard-headed foolishness.

This is a nation with a record for being beaten down but rising again. And again. And again.

As Jonathan Swift, one of Ireland's best authors said, "A man should never be ashamed to own that he has been in the wrong, which is but saying that he is wiser today than yesterday."

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

No shite.

I know there are others who've done it before.

But around 30 hours straight travel with a Hong Kong interlude knocks you. So, here I am in the UK's south west ready to roll up my sleeves and hunt down some folk from the Ol' Country...except, when you're in Europe you realise just how young New Zealand is.

The churches up/down the road were built before Maori even set eyes on Aotearoa. That's what I call history.

No shite.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

10 packets of snifters and a one-way ticket to the UK

Snifters are not a drug but they are an addiction.

A kiwi icon made redundant by Cadbury who "obtained" Nestle then decided to ditch the perfect lollies (including Tangy Fruits and Sparkles). Snifters, for those of you who're interested, are minty-chocolatey-nougaty goodness.

I have, or should say had, 25 packets. There now remain 16 but 10 will travel with me in October and the challenge is on to see what I can swap them for. Now, reality is, there's a heap of ex-pat New Zealanders living in the Big Wide World.

I reckon several of them wouldn't mind a taste of the homeland and riding the waves of remembered youth; spokey-dokes on BMX wheels, being the Standard Four pie monitor and when Space Man Candy Stick tips were still dipped in red...