calling your bluff

Bluff Oysters. Some say they are the tastiest in the world. Plump, juicy, buttery, even sweet tasting, they are the least snot-like of their genre around. I’m not sure that’s really the best description but I know you know what I mean. Bluff Oysters have texture and are a mouthful of loveliness that you savour rather than just allow to slip down your throat. Although clearly with my exceptional choice of words here, no one is going to pick me for the Bluff Oyster ad campaign…

Bluff Oyster season, and here I was really going to abbreviate it to BO season, but thought better of it…whew, lucky save, Jo Jo…has just begun in New Zealand. Restaurants, bars, fishmongers and supermarkets are blackboarding it up and making sure that everyone knows that it’s time.

The official harvesting season is from March until June or July, depending on when the quota is reached. May is the ultimate month for the oysters and that’s when Bluff itself (oh yes, international readers, there really IS a Bluff, waaaaay down south at the bottom of the South Island) gets its party clothes on, and on May 23, these little treats from the sea are the absolute stars.

The reason Bluff Oysters taste so great is because they are slowly grown in the cold, turbulent and therefore clean waters of Foveaux Strait.

Bluff Oysters are native only to New Zealand and Chile and they are tricky to export, so, if you can, get to New Zealand in the next few months and experience the goodness for yourselves.


Quiz Bite

Morgan Williams is a clever guy. He’s the kind of guy who makes things happen. All the time. I am constantly amazed at the ideas he comes up with. Lots of people have great ideas. Not everyone makes them happen every time.

Not long after the earthquakes in Christchurch, Morgan set up Quickie Events, an event company to get people moving again and interacting with a landscape they may have thought had betrayed them. A series of events such as a Quickie in the Forest, a Quickie in the Quarry, Quickie on the Beach and the Quarter Pounder, which, despite the suggestiveness of their names, were family friendly and allowed people to take part in mini multi-sport events and feel successful. Instead of daunting amounts of kilometres on bikes and running, Quickie Events offered short, achievable distances and a way to move on from the shaking.

His latest idea also involves a Q and a good time. The inaugural Quiz Bite was a resounding success, sold out well before the night and resulted in a lot of happy, if perhaps also slightly-disappointed-in-their-own-lack-of-what-they-may-have-thought-was-an-incredible-culinary-knowledge people. Here read I was slightly disappointed in my lack of culinary knowledge.

Five rounds. Three involving tasting and smelling and working out just what was IN (and in one case what wasn’t in) those little pottles and slithers and morsels of entrees, mains and dessert/cheese. Two involving general food knowledge and responding to visual cues. There was also a practical bread-making challenge thrown in for good measure. I’m still not really sure what a zopf is, but there was a lot of laughing and goodness in between the furrowed brow moments.

Look out for the next one, Christchurch people. So. Good.


same, same. but different

Christchurch is home. Even if I don’t live there right now. It will always be home because I grew up there and because I know so many people there who fill me with goldenness.

It is a little uncanny to walk around your home and for it to feel so familiar and yet also so different.

I see progress every time I visit. It is slow progress for the people who deal every day with the rough roads, continuing insurance issues, and a landscape often punctuated by bright orange road cones. 

People have moved away and friendship circles have got smaller in some instances. Favourite buildings have gone. Where once there was a neighbourhood of houses and schools, now there is only parkland. The house I grew up in is no longer there. The high school I went to has been closed since the earthquakes and hasn’t yet found a new location of its own, although word is that it’s coming.
But Christchurch is home. And I love it.
Ko nga pukemaeroero oku maunga
Ko otakaro toku awa 
Ko otautahi toku whenua 
Ko Brian raua ko Trish oku matua 
Ko Jo toku ingoa

Lyttelton Coffee Company

The Lyttelton Coffee Company is like an old friend who has been away for a while but when you catch up, it’s just like old times. You pick up where you left off and feel the glow of familiarity and history.

I’ve been away and LCC had been closed until December last year for almost four years after it was badly damaged in the 2011 earthquake in Christchurch. 

Walking in the door, it felt as though nothing had changed. Owner Stephen Mateer has done a fantastic job at rebuilding the cafe and recreating its charm, as well as strengthening and improving some aspects of the building. Industrial brick walls are easy to take for granted, but when you know that the bricks were individually salvaged, slimmed down and then pieced together again along with steel reinforcement, then the concept of a labour of love really sinks in.

A varied breakfast menu on the blackboard above the counter, a range of cabinet food served with LCC’s own great coffee and spectacular views of Lyttelton Harbour with its breathtaking landscape. What more could you want? 

when good bodies go bad

Now I preface the following with saying that I know there are people way way worse off than me and I don’t want to elicit sympathy where none is warranted. This is just my experience, as it’s unfolding, and while none of it is major stuff, the unfolding and the sum of it gives me pause.

This morning I woke up with a head cold. It’s nothing. A tingly, runny nose and a lot of sneezing. I laugh in the face of this head cold.

I actually did laugh when I realised I had it because I do feel a little as though my body is playing some kind of joke. Or it’s unhappy with me about something and it just can’t use its words.

Because, before the head cold, I had strep throat. Really great, green pus, almost abscessing, strep throat. It was awesome. I tried so hard all last weekend not to swallow. It was like a sport. A painful kind of sport where swallowing is the enemy. I am still on the penicillin. Which apparently has no power over the common cold. Horses for courses. Or something.

Before the strep throat, there was a weird earache scenario. Before that it was tonsillitis. And before that was the fifty shades of shingles which popped up out of nowhere around Christmas time and lasted and lasted.

We take our bodies for granted. And we have no idea what is going on inside them. I have a romantic idea that maybe once we were more attuned to our bodies and had more of an idea what we needed and where to get that from.

I eat pretty healthily. I go to the gym fairly often. I don’t smoke. I drink moderately. Well, why be shy, I drink really well and it’s something I have mastered. But mostly, I think I treat my body with respect. And yet I’m really not sure what it wants right now and that bothers me.

What’s more, in addition to all my other superpowers, I seem to have developed and be emitting the pheromone that attracts wasps. I have never noticed this particular ability before, but the last two weeks, they cannot leave me alone. And it’s not just fly-by checking out, it’s hovering and trying to land. It’s coming into my apartment and refusing to leave, except by force. It’s ‘following’ me all the way from the supermarket to my apartment building just now.

What does my body want from me? I feel like a metaphor I just can’t work out.


Some words get out of hand.

They become overused, used in a way that no longer resembles their original use, aren’t even words at all, but text acronyms, or are just plain stupid words that get way too much airtime because someone somewhere used them with a hashtag and they became a thing.

These words generally run their course. Every year, some pretty flash and fancy pants people in the media and academia try and help some of the more ridiculous words run their course more quickly by including them in lists called The List of Banished Words. If ever a word was to feel rejected, being included on this list would be that time. Sadly, the fine work of the BBC, New York Times, Time Magazine and Lake Superior State University, are more wish lists than lists that tweeters and instagrammars actually adhere to.

There’s always hope.

The 2015 list is up and running and so far it already surpasses lists from other years in the amount of words that are so darned annoying that we want to stick our fingers in our ears and sing Shake it off maniacally to ourselves just so we can’t hear them.

What does it say about us that this list is so long?  Why are we making up so many annoying words?

Perhaps it’s a good thing. Language is evolving to meet the times and trends and in the face of certain world events and accelerated social phenomena we have emotions we just can’t express in what is currently available to us.
And, while I might be talking about all this in some sort of tone of superiority and disdain, I have to sheepishly admit that I’ve used some of these words myself. You know, you hear something so often, it just gets in.

I certainly have never referred to anyone as bae, the affectionate term for the person you put before anyone else, nor have I pulled out an “I can’t even” to describe a situation which the speaker can’t even comprehend, but actually sounds as though they can’t even finish a sentence. I haven’t described anyone as cra-cra or bossy (in the sense of cool).


I have, sigh, pulled out foodie, polar vortex, skill set, hipster and hashtag, although with hashtag I was being ironic. These are all on the 2015 list. I’m up there with the people using the banished words. Yup. Humble pie.


And here I set aside that serve of the pie to concentrate on one word that I think has completely got out of hand. It has been building for a while and it is on this year’s list.


It’s everywhere. They’re all doing it, curating this and that and trying to sound high brow.

Originally a curator was someone associated with a museum, library or archive. They had a degree in a specialised field, knew a whole lot about their particular area of content and were responsible for an institution’s collections. They would oversee the acquisition and maintenance of items in the collection and interpret these items, that is, explain their context, why they were in the collection and how they might relate to other items.

Nowadays, curate has really come to mean any act of choosing something and including it in a list, a store, a menu, a playlist. There are curated websites, like Etsy or Brainpickings, where someone else has done all the scouring the internet and found the most interesting products or articles and put them all together so you can just sit down and read. In this sense, it has replaced the term formerly known as aggregating, where software was used to pull content, particularly news reports, from a whole lot of different sources and then publishes it in one place. Curating, on the other hand, is a manual process where the most significant pieces of content for the topic and the audience are selected from everything else that is out there.

I don’t mind that use of curating. I actually kind of like it. And I understand why it is so prevalent. Currently there is a hankering for all that is artisan, done the way it used to be done, properly, with care, by hand. The manual selection of the most relevant and the best fits that way of thinking.

I don’t think that the selection of mussel dishes I tasted at the media preview of an upcoming event were curated, even though the invitation said they were. I don’t think we can curate lipsticks, cat videos, Tony Abbott memes or recipes using coconut sugar. But that’s just me.

I do think that in a world of Facebook friend lists in the several hundreds, Instagram likes and Tinder swipes, we could maybe be a little more discerning in the way we select the people we call our friends and those we discard; the information we allow ourselves to be distracted with and the information we ignore; the experiences we seek and those we overlook.

Some words get out of hand. And some could do with being taken by the hand.

Me at the museum, Tiny Ruins

(Hand sculpture by Tim Middleton)