Before Christmas we made a trip down to Gore to visit my 90-year-old mother-in-law in a rest home there. Robert makes the trip to visit his mum once a week. Sometimes I accompany him.
We always take her out for a drive. Or a ‘run’ as Robert’s family vernacular would have it. These regular visits and drives mean I have seen more of the countryside around Gore than I did when I lived there. Back then, the only countryside I saw was through the Waikaia high school bus windows, or from a car window on the way to wherever 11.00 a.m. Sunday Mass was that week … Lumsden, Balfour, Waikaka, Riversdale, Waikaia.
Slugs are a favourite biscuit in my wider family. I have no idea why they are called that – maybe because of the shape? A well known biscuit down where I was raised (Western Southland) and one which once upon a time I thought no-one other than those associated with my family and that region, knew about. That is until about ten years ago when a lovely friend, the late Elizabeth Brooke-Carr, responded to a blog post of mine about these biscuits, informing me that she remembered them from her childhood in Owaka, in the Catlins.
Upon looking up the recipe just now, I find it is noted HERE as being a recipe that came from Scotland. That makes a lot of sense to me, having Scottish blood (highland and island and lowland) on both my mother and father’s side.
I baked a batch to take up with us to Christchurch, where we spent Christmas with our son and family.
Methven was where we spent a night on our journey up to Christchurch. Mid-Canterbury is a region we haven’t spent a lot of time in, so it was all new ground.
I was amused by the prosaically-named Blue Pub and Brown Pub with accompanying street furniture.
These days the town is persistently promoted as a ski resort. When we were there, a quietness verging on lethargy suffused the streets – no doubt aided by the temperature soaring to 30 degrees celsius, with a hot nor’ westerly* making its presence felt. *I will write a little more about this wind later
Methven is a town that has had its fair share of spirit-quelling stuff – earthquake damage back in 2010 and more recently, Covid’s serious impact. However, as I eavesdropped (a favourite pastime from childhood on and one I find very useful to gague surroundings) during our dinner in a restaurant, I got the impression from locals that the heart of the community is robust enough. Pretty resilient. Pretty tough.
Next day, before heading for Christchurch via the Rakaia Gorge, Robert played golf. Methven golf course’s boast is that it’s the ‘most picturesque golf course in the South Island’. Robert set out to prove that they weren’t lying. And they weren’t.
Meanwhile, I read from some magazines I’d splashed out on (Thrive and Shepherdess – two quality NZ magazines I highly recommend) and r e l a x e d.
I believe this was my first sighting of the Rakaia Gorge, famous geologically as well as mythologically.
Go HERE to read the story of the taniwha of Rakaia Gorge.
Arriving in Christchurch, we added the presents we’d brought with us to the pile already under the driftwood Christmas tree.
The day before the day before Christmas was perfect for a board game indoors, which may or may not have included an imitation of Trump by yours truly.
Steve was soaking the turkey for tomorrow’s dinner in a brine solution with (among other things) apple juice and oranges added to it.
Christmas morning – the time for opening the presents under the tree.
My three sisters and I decided this year to buy each other the kind of Christmas present our late mother used to buy – which because of their quirkiness and idisosyncratic nature, always caused much hilarity. She didn’t always mean to cause so much laughter and sometimes got upset that we thought the presents so funny. But when you give obvious bowling club raffle prizes as presents, or break up sets so that everyone gets ‘one of a set’ … and you give your granddaughters G-strings … Well, sorry Mum, but there’s going to be laughter!
Christmas breakfast waffle made by our granddaughter A. using a Christmas gift: a waffle/panini/doughnut maker.
Our son, at around ten years old, was thinking he’d like to be a chef but was put off this career trajectory early on by a chef uncle telling him not to. The hours are far too unsocial he was told. Advice our son heeded. He is now happily employed as a teacher.
However, his inclinations towards food prep. are ocassionally activated, such as on Christmas Day this year when we were the lucky recipients of Christmas Dinner cooked entirely by him. Including a turkey roasted on a charcoal bbq.
While waiting for the turkey and accompanying roast potatoes and salads to be prepared, there was time for some cricket on Hagley Park (so close to where our son and family live, it could legitimately be called their backyard.) Plus some boomerang-throwing pracice with the boomerang our grandson got for Christmas.
Back to the house for a splendid Christmas dinner. The roast potatoes were perfect – golden and crunchy on the outside, sweet and fluffy on the inside. By carefully following instructions handed down from his paternal grandfather; instructions that include using Agria spuds and roasting them in duck fat; Steve had produced a faithful reproduction of a family favourite.
Needless to say, the turkey was sublime.
We didn’t feel like pudding until about 4.00 p.m. I’d brought a Christmas pudding (‘I’d prepared before’) using a recipe in the Orepuki Women’s Division Recipe book (circa 1962) which we ate with custard and cream.
Boxing Day consisted of watching cricket at Hagley Park Cricket Ground, the weather continuing sunny and perfect.
While at the game, I received news that an Aunt had died that morning. She was in her nineties but as it was a sudden death, it was a shock for her son and family. She was my father’s sister-in-law and the last link with that generation – a line that stretches for over one hundred and twenty years, the first of Dad’s siblings being born in the early 1900’s.
I have some sweet memories of this sweet person. R.I.P. Aunty Joyce.
When I was sent this photo, taken by my brother of a fish he’d caught a couple of days after my Aunty died, I remembered how Uncle Steve (her husband) took my brother, who was thirteen years old at the time, fishing after our father died. It made me think that maybe my brother had been getting some help with his fishing that morning.