The calming effect of big country

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It’s book-writing time, but this blog is tap-tap-tapping against the inside of my head. I’ll have to let the damn thing out so I can get on with it.

It’s about a landscape. One of those terrifying, big country, exploding-out-of-the-earth places that remind you that this planet will survive all the madness – it’s us who will end up fossils. Continue reading

Red is the colour of a New Zealand Christmas

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It’s funny what a little distance can do.

Last year was our first white Christmas, spent high in the Austrian Alps. It snowed on Christmas Eve and we spent a week in the bosom of warm Austrian hospitality – candlelight feasting, skiing and tobogganing . It was such an enchanting and different experience that I feared that returning to normal – no matter how good to be with all the family again – would be a disappointment.

Then, while hanging out the washing the other day (bear with me) I looked up to see the blood-red blooms of the pohutukawa tree at the neighour-two-doors-over.

Boom. It was like a wee Christmas elf had waved a magical pine wand and transported me to the beach. Continue reading

Back in the shire: the truth about coming home

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What a blur it’s been.

Smiling faces and hugs and kisses at the airport then whammo: into the car and back onto the left hand side of the road, heading north past Mangere Mountain, onto the bridge across the harbour, taking the Hillsborough Rd exit, passing through Epsom, past the rubbish bin I threw up in in 2008, past the café that does the baguettes, past Dog Mountain, up the hill to Mt Eden village, past the family doctor on the left, the family dentist on the right, the chemist, the favourite deli, turning right at the fruit shop, right again and there you are.

Home.
Continue reading

The ugly business of saying good-bye


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A week to go. A week!

What a strange limbo this is.

I went out to buy fruit the other day, paused at the end of the driveway, sighed, and turned left instead of right.

What a coward. Instead of heading to my favourite little fruit shack up the road, I went to the big, bland, unfriendly place down the road, spoke to no one and slunk back home with my inferior produce.

It’s so stupid to be avoiding the Raspberry Man who I have enjoyed talking with so much over the last 18 months.

Today I realised why I’ve been doing it. The business of leaving is messing up the business of living. Continue reading

Cassis, the Route de Crêtes and a camera cock-up

Sometimes a landscape is so painterly that it can make up for a technical screw-up on the camera front.

I was initially horrified to see that I had accidentally enabled a cheap camera effect on the day we  finally brought our boys to one of our favourite landscapes in Provence – the dizzying Route de Crêtes between Cassis and La Ciotat. Continue reading

The best place never to take children in Provence


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There were good reasons not to take five children on one of the best hikes in Provence.

Risk of death was the principle one.

The highest point takes you high along the face of a cliff so thin that it looks like a gormless rock giant has patted it together out of wet sand and tapped bits out of it with a finger.

The French call it Les Lames – The Blades. Continue reading