Tag Archives: active body


“He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.”
W H Auden, 1907-1973, Anglo-American poet

Certain days are harder than others.  Today is the 13th anniversary of my husband’s death.  So I will spend time with my children and later meet a friend in an attempt to stay out of that dark cave that always awaits me on this day.

“Fly free; Soar high; Breathe easy.”


R.I.P Robert Paisley Baxter 1.11.29 – 22.04.98

Back tomorrow. See you then.
















So what is it that you fear?


Remember that fear always lurks behind perfectionism.  Confronting your fears and allowing yourself the right to be human can, paradoxically, make you a far happier and more productive person.  Dr David M Burns.

I am part of a group of women who get together to support and learn from each other.  This is a new group that has had only one meeting so far.  At that meeting it was decided that future meetings would have a ‘theme’ and the ‘theme’ for tonight’s (the second) meeting would be FEAR.

We were asked to put something together about our fears and how we planned to get over them aka move/live through them and come out the other side.

When I sat down to put together my piece for the meeting I thought about the many acronyms for FEAR and several came immediately to mind.

The obvious one is False Expectations Appearing Real but what about

For Everything a Reason

Forget Everything and Run

Forget Everything and Remember

Failure Expected and Received

Face Everything and Rejoice

False Emotions Appearing Real

Forget Everything and Relax

Future Events Appearing Real

Of these my favorite is ‘Face Everything and Rejoice”.

But of course when we usually talk about FEAR it is in the negative sense.  For me, having lived this long and interesting life, there really is nothing I fear except perhaps ending my life as a vegetable.  This could be Alzheimer’s or some other debilitating illness.

MPH LogoEach week at the hospice I see people in the last stages of their life.  By the time they arrive at the hospice they all appear to have accepted that their life is coming to an end.  I don’t fear this as an ending to my life but I would hate to be totally dependent on somebody else for all my needs.

Not since I was a small child have I been dependent on somebody else.  I was inter-dependent with my late husband  for more than 40 years but this is something quite different.  We were mutually supportive of each other.

There are two things that I really dread – losing control of my mind and losing control of my body.

So I am doing everything I can to stop either of these things happening.  I walk up and down the hills of this very hilly suburb in Wellington, on a daily basis.  I walk to the local store and take opportunities to walk when I can.

Golf club and ball

Photo -Karl Nelleson

I play the occasional game of golf with a friend.  Neither of us is particularly good but we love the game and the open air.  I promise to play more golf in the coming months.

I read vociferously.  I love words and word Pile of bookspuzzles and these form part of my everyday life.  I play bridge, not as often as I used to but I promise I will take it up again.  I will find three others to play with on a regular basis.

Playing cards

I will keep on working on these things so that my daughter will never hear me say “Who are you?” when she comes to visit.  And I will also  exercise the body.

I would sort out all the arguments and see which belonged to fear and which to creativeness. Other things being equal, I would make the decision which had the larger number of creative reasons on its side.  ~Katharine Butler Hathaway 1890-1942, American author.

Is anybody there?

Couple walking along a deserted beach

‘Is there anybody there?’ said the Traveller,
Knocking on the moonlit door;
And his horse in the silence champ’d the grasses
Of the forest’s ferny floor:
And a bird flew up out of the turret,
Above the Traveller’s head:
And he smote upon the door again a second time;
‘Is there anybody there?’ he said.
From ‘The Listeners”. Walter de la Mare,
1873 – 1956) English poet, short story writer and novelist.

Sometimes when I start my daily blog I wonder whether in fact there is anybody out there interested in the ramblings of an elderly English woman.  And then I look at the number of visitors to my site and the number of hits and tell myself these can’t be all family and friends.  So a big thank you to whoever is reading my blogs.

And sometimes when I sit down to write the blog I am confronted by a blank screen (the writer’s equivalent to a blank page in the typewriter) and try to think what I will share with you today.

So today building on the theme is anybody out there I picked the quotation from The Listeners.  From a very young age, I have loved Walter de la Mare’s poetry and still have a prized copy of ‘Come Hither” first published in 1957 and have spent many rainy afternoons stuck in the pages of this book.

When I was growing up poems were meant to have rhymes, stanzas/verses and meter.  I am reading much newer poets these days and a new favourite is James Rainsford.  Now for today’s post…

It is autumn here and the sun is shining brightly today.  In New Zealand, we are energy conscious and many people dry their laundry on clotheslines outside.  So today I can see my neighbour’s washing dancing on the line.

Washing on line

And when I look at the washing dancing in the notorious Wellington wind I think back to when my children were small and I too had lines of their washing out in the sun.

And then I started the memory lane trip once again.  I seem to be doing this a lot recently.  I thought about school days and how different they were for my children in three different parts of the world.  In Scotland they were very young, my daughter was in the first two years of primary school and my son only attended nursery/preschool.  They both started preschool at 3.

My daughter was 7 when we moved to Auckland, NZ and she attended the local primary school for a term before transferring to a school situated on the beach.

Takapuna Beach

The beach at Takapuna

Our house was on the beach and she used to walk to school along the beach, dressed in her school uniform, satchel on her back and shoes in her hand.  So different from Glasgow.

At 5 my son went to school in town and so had a bus ride to a school founded on the Scottish education system by a Presbyterian minister.  Some unnecessary information for you here – St Kentigern (or St Mungo) is the patron saint of Glasgow hence the name of the school – St Kentigern Primary.  He missed out on the walk along the beach but not the uniform or the satchel.

Then to Montreal where they both attended the same school.  I learned recently that the school was closed in 2006.  Here they learned to brave the winters and play winter sports.  In class, they learned more French but according to French friends I made while living in Montreal it was not true French and in fact, I often had to translate for a French friend from Paris.

Then back to New Zealand.  The children picked up where they had left off and all was stable for about a year and then we moved to Wellington.  So two new schools for the children.

But all this chopping and changing didn’t seem to affect them very much.  The grew up to be two well rounded, caring people as I have said many times before.

So on to today – Now occasionally I hang my grandchildren’s washing on the line.  Lines and lines of socks, underwear, shirts, pants etc.  Do they have more clothes these days or do they just leave them in a pile until their mother (or grandmother) lifts them and puts them in the wash?  Then when they are dried, the clothes are ironed or folded and put away to be worn again, discarded after wearing and eventually washed again.

Laundry in basket

And today’s quote –

“Have you ever taken anything out of the clothes basket because
it had become, relatively, the cleaner thing?” –
Katherine Whitehorn
, 1928,  British journalist, writer, and columnist














Memories are made of this

Nostalgia is like a grammar lesson:
you find the present tense, but the past perfect!
Owens Lee Pomeroy, 1929-2008
Co-founder of the Golden Radio Buffs of MD

Wurlitzer juke box

Reproduction Wurlitzer 1015 in the Hotel Nacional de Cuba, Havana: Wikipedia

If you have read any of my blogs over the past couple of weeks you will know that I am on a nostalgia kick.

And today , with no inclination to do anything else as the rain falls down and the wind howls around the house, I have been reading other people’s blogs and clearing my email in-box.

Two things immediately jumped out at me.  A cousin sent me a whole list of things from the 50s and I found Penny at http://lifesabeachjournal.com/.  She too is drifting into nostalgia.  I particularly liked this video  that she posted  Guess I’m really showing my age.

Growing up in London after the Second World War, I remember going to the baker’s for bread, the butchers for meat, the local sweetshop, only ever on a Sunday to choose the week’s sweets, the Co-0p grocery where butter was cut from a block and patted into shape with two paddles. Cheese was cut from a block with a wire according to the customer’s request.

Model in Nottingham Museum

My favorite shop of all was the local Jewish Deli owned by Mr Smulevitch.  Cigarettes were bought at the tobacconist, the greengrocer sold fruit and vegetables and milk came in bottles and was delivered every day.  No wonder our mothers were so fit and didn’t need to go to the gym.

My mother shopped each day. She walked with her two shopping bags balanced as she used to say.

Ration books

via Wikipedia

She would make the rounds of all the shops; during and after the second world war she would be armed with a list, her change purse (the shopping bags of course) and the Ration Books.

Pat Cryer has a website devoted to growing up during the post war years.  Visit her here.

We children, of course, thought this was the normal way to live and we accepted that there was only a finite amount of food to be shared in the family,  But as Zig Ziglar says”I had plenty to eat.  I know because my mother always told me I had plenty.”(Hilary Hinton “Zig” Ziglar born 6 November 1926 is an American author, salesman, and motivational speaker).

So what does the pictured juke box have to do with this.  Well the war passed and we grew into three young ladies.  We started to go out with young men to dances and when there was no band the juke box was played.

We danced to Bill Haley and the Comets as they sang Rock around the Clock. Elvis Presley sang Don’t Be Cruel and Love Me Tender.  How tame are these songs compared to today’s recording artists.  But our parents were convinced we were all heading along the road to damnation.

There were no McDonald’s, Burger King or any other fast food outlets.  The only fast food we knew about was the local fish and chip shop or as we lived in the East End of London, the pie shop.  We didn’t have fish and chips or pie and mash often as Mother preferred to feed us what she prepared in her own kitchen.  But I remember walking home from swimming lessons and going into the local fish shop for a bag of “crackling” the bits left in the oil/fat once the chip baskets had been lifted.

Pie and Mash shop

Photographer: Fin Fahey

Very, very occasionally, and as a real treat, we were taken to the local pie and mash shop. I found this picture of the local shop in the Broadway Market, London E8 in Wikipedia.  This was our local pie shop and I thank Fin Fahey for allowing its use here. For those of you who don’t know about this East End treat go to this site.  This guy is obviously a regular.

The influx of refugees displaced during the Second World War were only beginning to arrive and so their ‘exotic’ cuisines hadn’t been introduced to our diets.  Meat and two or three vegs was the order of the day in most households.

We wore our hair either very short or in a bouffant style that required a lot of work, backcombing and hairspray.Bouffant  We wore full skirts that need layers of petticoats to hold them out.  I remember my late husband arriving home with such a petticoat that he had purchased on one of his trips (to France I think).  Apparently, the Customs Officer insisted that he open the roll in which it had been encased and this piece of clothing shot out.  When I picture it today I think of an airbag exploding in a car.

A memory has just surfaced of when the petticoat was washed it had to be dipped into sugar-water and left to drip dry so that it became stiff once again.  Would my daughter do this today?

I think I have to stop there.  Nostalgia sweeping over me.  Will return to the subject another day.

Play with life, laugh with life,
dance with life and smile at the riddles of life,
knowing that life’s only true lessons
are writ small in the margins.
Jonathon Lockwood-Huie, Author, Lover of Life and

philosopher of Happiness.











Musings on what might have been..

Footprints in the sand

Only one set of footprints

Have you ever read a poem that seemed to be written just for you?  This is such a poem and it speaks to me in my late husband’s words.  How often did he ask me to put down a book to see something he wanted to share or to tell me something he thought I should like to hear.

This poem from James Rainsford is such a poem for me:

Please put down that book you’re reading now
and gently close its pages.
So no harm shall cometo damage its cold thoughts.
Look up.  Please, look up and see
what little there is left of me where you felt loved.

© James Rainsford – Author, poet, photographer.

Thank you, James, for giving me permission to reprint your poem here.  And for anybody wanting to read more about James and his works click here.

It was almost like the Roberta Flack song ‘Killing me softly with his song” and the words ” He sang as if he knew me in all my dark despair”.  I do think James knew what it was like to be where I was after my husband died.

And for all that misery today I am still very grateful for the 41 years I had with my soulmate.  See My Gratitude List

So that’s my musing for today. I promise to be more upbeat tomorrow.

And today’s quote is from Wayne Dyer, American self-help advocate, author, and lecturer. 1940-

“Be miserable. Or motivate yourself. Whatever has to be done, it’s always your choice. “

Rainy days, gardening, cooking and other foolish things

Leaves wet with rain

“I’m old fashioned, I love the moonlight
I love the old fashioned things
The sound of rain upon a window pane
The starry song that April sings
This years fancies are passing fancies
But sighing sighs, holding hands
These my heart understands”  Lyrics by Johnny Mercer, 1909 – 1976, American lyricist, songwriter and singer.

This morning I awoke to rain.  Not the sound of rain but that soft misty rain that absolutely soaks everything and stops you seeing even the houses on the other side of the street. But as I have said before, I am English and we are used to this type of rain.  It is in the air and all around us.

So what to do today.  I shall certainly take my small dog for a walk.  She doesn’t much like being wet but I love the feel of this soft, caressing rain on my skin. It reminds me of walking home from school in the rain.



I won’t be able to get into the garden to pull out the weeds that have invaded since last week.  How sad!  In case you don’t know weeding is not one of my favourite pastimes, although I have been known to lose myself in the task for several hours.  In fact last weekend I spent a couple of hours trying to decide which were flowers and which were flowers in the wrong place.  My spiritual gardening friends tell me that weeds are only flowers in the wrong place.

That old garden bench in need of painting won’t get done today. That was something I was looking forward to doing.  Oh well, leave it for another day.  It has been waiting to be painted for so long that a few more days, weeks or even months won’t really matter.  And I can still sit on it and read on good days.  And with a rug on it, Lotte (my Tibetan Spaniel) doesn’t care if it is painted or not.

So now I can think of what I can do today because of the rain.

Yesterday in a cafe with a friend – those of you who have read my earlier blogs know that I frequent cafes a lot – we had mulligatawny soup.

Bowl of soup

via Wikipedia

Love the name.  It rolls off the tongue so easily so I looked up its origins.  According to Wikipedia (my go to place for anything I need to know)


“Mulligatawny is a  curry-flavored soup of Anglo-Indian origin. Translated literally from Tamil, “Mulligatawny” means “pepper water”(“Millagu” means pepper and “Thanni” means water).  There are many variations on the recipe for mulligatawny.  In the West, the soup typically has a turmeric-like yellow colour and chicken meat, beef, or lamb meat. Often it is thickened with rice.”

The soup was so good that I thought I would make it sometime.  Looks like that sometime is today.   My son will be very pleased if I do make it.  He will get some and he tells everybody how good his Mother’s soup is.

More on soups another time.

So what else can I do?  I went to the library yesterday and have a number of books I could start.  What a choice.  Time was limited at the library as I found a car park good for only 30 minutes.  Not nearly long enough to browse through the library.  But beggars can’t be choosers.  So I went straight to  C and found Robert Crais’  “The First Rule” then onto D for Jeffery Deaver and chose “Speaking in Tongues”  and then James Paterson “Postcard Killers” all three novelists well-known to me.  Then I came across three unknowns (at least to me)

  • Alan Dunn, English teacher and novelist.  His book is “Ice Cold”.  I am looking forward to reading that.
  • Judith Kelman is ‘an award-winning master of psychological suspense”.  She lives in New York City. Her book is called “The First Stone”.So another new writer to read and
  • Domenica de Rosa’s ‘Summer School’.  A novel set in a 13th Century Italian Castle.  That will make good reading.

So as you can see I am spoiled for choice.

But first, a cup of tea Toast and marmaladewith toast and marmalade for breakfast while I decide the order in which I am going to do things.

Such weighty decisions can’t be hurried.

Then check larder and refrigerator for ingredients for the soup.  I may have to make a trip to the store for some things.  That’s OK it can be merged with the walk for Lotte.  That is if she ever gets out of her bed today.  As I said, she doesn’t like the rain or water of any kind.  She is not a true spaniel as spaniels are water dogs and love the sea.  She hates it and won’t go anywhere near it or a river.

Are you old enough to remember Johnny Ray singing “Just Walking in the Rain”? If so take a walk down memory lane here.  Even if you are not old enough you might still enjoy it.

Now a question for you.  What do you do on rainy days when you have to spend time indoors?  I would really like to hear from you.

And today’s quote is from Terri Guillemets (1973-)  U.S. quotation anthologist
creator of The Quote Garden

Weather is a great metaphor for life – sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad, and there’s nothing much you can do about it but carry an umbrella”.

If you haven’t discovered Terri and the Quote Garden you won’t know of her ‘Daily Harvest”.  Here is todays:

Daily Harvest for 4/16/2011:
The most beautiful discovery true friends make is that they can grow separately without growing apart.  ~Elisabeth Foley













Walking around our city

Wellington is affectionately dubbed Windy Wellington due to its close proximity to the Cook Strait and unpredictable weather patterns.  It is  the Capital City of New Zealand, and is small enough for one to walk around in a day and see most of the sights and visit some of the monuments and galleries open to the public.

Wellington city was recently named as ‘the “Best Little Capital in the World” by Lonely Planet Guide.  Being named  4th in the top ten cities of the world to visit in 2011.  (Lonely Planet Best in Travel 2011).

With its quaint wooden houses tumbling down a ring of hills to the city centre, clustered on reclaimed land around the glittering harbour, in ‘100% Pure New Zealand’, the country’s most innovative and inspiring city might just be the ‘Best Little Capital in the World”

View of Harbour

This harbor view of Wellington is available from many of the hills surrounding our beautiful city.  The city is a hive of activity with a thriving commercial center; cultural, arts and sports are alive and well here too.

Following the downturn in the economy following the share-market crash in the late 80s, many of the commercial  buildings became empty and many were converted to apartments.  So now we have a city that is bustling with life until the early hours of the morning where before the city closed down after the offices closed.

Wharf offices buildingWellington Harbour Board Wharf Office Building (Shed 7). Photographed by Rachel Connolly 10/01/2009. Copyright NZ Historic Places Trust

Probably the most notable conversion of offices into apartments is the Wharf Offices building in Queens Wharf.

This building was designed by the well known English architect, Frederick de Jersey Clere (1856 – 1952) for the Harbor Board to use as offices.  The building, is classified as a “Category I” (“places of ‘special or outstanding historical or cultural heritage significance or value'”) historic place by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust.

Apart from 31 great apartments the building houses the NZ Academy of Fine Arts  a non-profit private company supported by membership subscriptions, donations and commissions on the sale of exhibited works.

When the building was first converted I was employed to manage the building and look after the interests of the Body Corporate.  This is a fascinating building that has held my interest for some 20 years.

The building is home to an unusual and almost un-noticed monument which is  a memorial to Paddy the Wanderer. The story of Paddy was the inspiration for a recent (2007) children’s book by Dianne Haworth.  The story of Paddy is told on a separate adjacent plaque as:

“Paddy the Wanderer was a ginger and brown Airedale (terrier) dog who became a well known and much loved identity on the Wellington waterfront in the 1930’s. His original name was believed to have been “Dash”, the favourite pet of  a little girl called Elsie Marion Glasgow, whose father was a seaman. Elsie Marion and her mother Alice would often bring their dog to meet John Glasgow’s ship when he was returning to port. In this way, “Dash” soon became familiar with the wharves.

Tragically, Elsie Marion took ill and died of pneumonia in 1928, aged three-and-a-half years. Bewildered and lost, “Dash” strayed from home and took to wandering the wharves, seemingly in search of his lost playmate. He never returned home, deciding instead to remain at the waterfront.

Paddy came to be a familiar sight on the wharves in the 1930’s, and began to feature regularly in newspaper articles. He was cared for by watersiders and Harbour Board workers, seamen and local taxi drivers, who all took it in turn to pay his annual dog license fee. The taxi drivers would often take him for rides around the city, and sometimes up country. Paddy also made voyages to some of New Zealand’s coastal ports, and to Australia.

Paddy was said to have good sea legs and “a really keen nose for impending storms”. In 1935 he made a flight in a Gipsey Moth biplane, and apparently enjoyed the experience of flying in an open cockpit.

In his last few years, Paddy held the honorary title of Assistant Watchman, keeping an eye out for smugglers and pirates as well as rodents. Paddy became good friends with the nightwatchman, both being glad of each other’s company during the long, cold nights.

By the time he was 13 years old, Paddy began to show signs of old age and refused to travel far. He was now usually to be found on the Tally Clerk’s stand inside the Queen’s Wharf Gates. Then, when his health deteriorated, he was placed in a sickbed in Shed 1, and attended to by a vet, with people calling to see him and to enquire about his welfare.

On July 17, 1939, Paddy died. Obituary notices were placed in the local papers to inform everyone of his death. A fleet of black taxis, led by a traffic officer formed a funeral cortege to carry his coffin from Queen’s Wharf to the City Corporation yards for cremation.

Funds were gathered by Paddy’s old friends for a memorial drinking fountain. In 1945, the fountain was erected. It is set in stone from London’s bombed Waterloo Bridge. When the drinking bowl overflows with water, it fills the two drinking bowls below, for any dog who passes to quench a thirst.”

Surely a small dog with a great history.  And the water bowls are there for any dog being walked on a leash and some who just escape, to drink from.  LotteI often stop there to read the plaque while Lotte slurps from the bowl.

In future posts I would like to show you around our fabulous city.  We have fantastic museums including

  •  Our National Museum – Te Papa (Maori for Our Place.  This building has caused great controversy and you either love it or hate it.  I love it.
  • Museum of City and Sea – celebrating Wellington’s social, cultural and maritime history.
  • Cable Car Museum – brings to life the story of Wellington’s iconic cable cars
  • The Colonial Cottage – Wellington’s oldest original cottage and its garden
  • NZ Cricket Museum – based in the Old Grandstand at the Basin Reserve, Wellington, and houses a wealth of cricket treasures and memorabilia
  • Katherine Mansfield’s Birthplace – The childhood home of New Zealand’s most famous author

and many other places to delight you.  We can also take walks around the harbor and see some of the original cottages that were built when Wellington was first inhabited.  Oh I am so looking forward to sharing my hometown with you.  I hope you will join me.

Perhaps we could share some of our favorite places.  Let me know what are your favorite places in your city please.

And today’s quote comes Elizabeth Seton 1774-1821, The First American Saint

“When so rich a harvest is before us, why do we not gather it?  All is in our hands if we will but use it”.


I Hope You Dance

Today’s blog is very short and to the point.  I heard this song once and decided to adopt it as my mantra.  It says all that I believe and all that I wanted to share with my family, friends and life-coaching clients.  I hope you agree.

“I hope you never lose your sense of wonder
You get your fill to eat
But always keep that hunger
May you never take one single breath for granted
God forbid love ever leave you empty handed
I hope you still feel small
When you stand by the ocean
Whenever one door closes, I hope one more opens
Promise me you’ll give faith a fighting chance

And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance
I hope you dance
I hope you dance”

The version of the song that I really like is by  Leann Womack.  This young, country singer has so much soul in her voice – listen to it here.

I just love the words and the symbolism.  And how they speak to me and what they say.
“I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance
Never settle for the path of least resistance
Living might mean taking chances
But they’re worth taking
Lovin’ might be a mistake
But it’s worth making
Don’t let some hell bent heart
Leave you bitter
When you come close to selling out
Give the heavens above
More than just a passing glance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance
I hope you dance”
I used the tag line – If you get the choice to sit it out or dance; I hope you dance” as the close off in all the newsletters I used to send out to my life coaching clients.  I have this phrase as the screen saver on my computer and all the words of the song on the wall of my study. So as you can see I am hooked.
“I hope you still feel small
When you stand by the ocean
Whenever one door closes, I hope one more opens
Promise me you’ll give faith a fighting chance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance
I hope you dance
I hope you dance”
Music and Lyrics by Mark D. Sanders/Tia Sillers Copyright © 2000, Uni/Mca Nashville. All Rights Reserved.from the album, I Hope You Dance

Do you have a favorite song that speaks to you the way this one speaks to me?  Is it just the song or is the singer important to you and your song?  I really would love to hear from some of you.  Maybe that way we will all learn some new songs.

And I should like to thank the person that sent me this image of the dancing bears.  I think it just fits here as if it belongs.

Bears Dancing

To Be or Not To Be; To Drink or Not To Drink

“I had some dreams they were clouds in my coffee” Carly Simon, Americansinger-songwriter, musician 1945 –

This coffee falls into your stomach, and straightway there is a general commotion.  Ideas begin to move like the battalions of the Grand Army of the battlefield, and the battle takes place.  Things remembered arrive at full gallop, ensuing to the wind.  The light cavalry of comparisons deliver a magnificent deploying charge, the artillery of logic hurry up with their train and ammunition, the shafts of with start up like sharpshooters.  Similes arise, the paper is covered with ink; for the struggle commences and is concluded with torrents of black water, just as a battle with powder.  ~Honore de Balzac,  1799-1850,  French novelist and playwright.”The Pleasures and Pains of Coffee”

Here in Wellington the cafe/coffee culture is alive, well and thriving. Each morning one can see the commuters on the way to their shops and offices holding  Styrofoam cups of steaming coffee.  It appears we all need this extra fix to start our day.

And it’s not only the busy worker bees on the way to their offices and shops,  We have all succumbed to the coffee culture.  Wellington promotes itself as a culinary capital, famous for its variety of restaurants and cafés. There are more than 300 cafés throughout the city, reputedly more per capita than New York City.

It seems as if nobody takes a coffee break in the office or staff room any more.  At times in the mornings the cafes are full of business men and women taking their breaks with a decent cup of coffee (and maybe just a little Danish , muffin or pastry).  As well as the business people cafes attract fashionable matrons in the city for a day’s shopping or just to catch up with friends; younger married women with time and money on their hands and mothers with babies in strollers.  Some cafes cater for young mothers by providing play areas for the children.

Some coffee shops provide much more than just good food, great coffee and the opportunity to do some people watching.  Many also showcase works of local artists.  This provides an opportunity to study some weird and wonderful art and design ideas.  And apart from the ubiquitous Starbucks, most of the coffee shops have something that sets them apart from the others.  This could be the great coffee (of course) the decor, the staff or the items gracing the walls.

cup of latte

Baristas pride themselves on producing beautiful coffee.   They delight in putting different shapes on the top and as you can see, the coffee becomes an artwork in itself. The presentation becomes almost an artwork.  The photo above was taken this morning at my favorite coffee shop.

Does this affect the taste?  I suggest not.  The coffee is good and sometimes I have two.  But as I have said before “I’m English so I drink tea”.

And some inconsequential nonsense from  The Women’s Petition Against Coffee

“the Excessive use of that Newfangled, Abominable, Heathenish Liquor called COFFEE, which Riffling Nature of her Choicest Treasures, and Drying up the Radical Moisture, has so Eunucht our Husbands, and Crippled our more kind Gallants, that they are become as Impotent, as Age, and as unfruitful as those Desarts whence that unhappy Berry is said to be brought.”

The petition finished with  –

We Humbly Pray, That you our Trusty Patrons would improve your Interest, that henceforth the Drinking Coffee may on severe penalties be forbidden to all Persons under the Age of Threescore; and that instead thereof, Lusty nappy Beer, Cock-Ale, Cordial Canaries, Restoring Malago’s, and Back-recruiting Chochole be Recommended to General Use, throughout the Utopian Territories.  In hopes of which Glorious Reformation, your Petitioners shall readily Prostrate themselves, and ever Pray, &c.


And the point of today’s post?  None whatsoever.  Just an elderly lady playing with words.

Sunday for tea

Sunday for tea I’ll see you Sunday for tea
And though it’s not far away each hour’s a day to me
Lettuce and ham or maybe crumpets and jam
Oh baby it’ll be fun Havin’ a Sunday tea
So sang Peter and Gordon in the 1960s.

For our family, Sunday afternoon tea was a ritual.  The whole family that is Grandma and Poppy, their two sons and daughter, their spouses and the 9 grandchildren regularly met on Sunday at Grandma and Poppy’s apartment.

While the adults talked and discussed whatever adults discussed, the 8 granddaughters and the sole grandson amused themselves as children did then. We played cards, dominoes, monopoly and other childish games that our grandchildren would not think of playing today.

DominoesPlaying cards


The adults would, of course, have cups of tea while catching up on the gossip.  They all lived near each other, in fact, my grandparents lived in our apartment complex.  Families saw and interacted with each other in a much closer way than they do now.  Really it was one big, mostly happy, family then.

As 5 pm approached the wives, that is mother and her two sisters-in-law, would go to the kitchen to prepare tea for us all.  In retrospect, it seems that every Sunday we had the same things.  Egg and tomato sandwiches, made with white bread as there was no choice then. I think occasionally there would be sardine instead of egg but egg and tomato is what I remember.  There would be small cakes that one or other of the sisters-in-law had baked and of course, Mother’s Victoria sponge cake.

Victoria sponge cakeTea cup and saucer

I can’t imagine, or indeed remember where everybody sat for Tea.  The apartment was quite small but somehow every Sunday we all ate together.

The table was always set, with the prized epergne in the centre.

Lovely centerpiece

This was a thing of rare beauty in our world.  Most of the things in that era following the ending of the Second World War were functional rather than beautiful.  I have no idea where this thing came from or where it went.  I hope that one of the grandchildren has it and treasures it still.

Shortly after tea, with the table cleared, dishes washed (by hand, no dishwashers back then) and the kitchen, the living room and the ‘blue’ room where the children amused themselves, put back to order, we all departed to meet again next week.

I don’t know when this ritual ceased, but I hold it as one of my very dear memories of a happy, carefree and much-loved childhood. And when I think of it I think of Robert Louis Stevenson’s “The Lamplighter”

“My tea is nearly ready and the sun has left the sky;
It’s time to take the window to see Leerie going by;
For every night at tea-time and before you take your  seat,
With lantern and with ladder he comes posting up the street.”

It doesn’t have much to do with tea at Grandma’s but I really love it.  For the rest of that poem, which is firmly stuck in my head from childhood go to The Lamplighter

And of course there have been many stories about tea parties, some involving famous people but I think few will exceed the happy memories I have of those Sunday afternoon teas with the family.