Sunday, 23 May 2021

New Zealand Comedy Festival 2021

The New Zealand International Comedy Festival takes place in Auckland and Wellington during May each year. Well, most years. 2020 was obviously an exception. The festival kicks off with a gala evening where local and (usually) international comedians put forward four minute samplers of what's to come during their festival shows. Last year's gala evening happened later in the year and featured an almost exclusively local lineup. This year's show had a few more internationals who had either moved her shortly before the pandemic or simply decided to sit it out in relatively safety while on their travels. Either way, we're glad we can enjoy live stand-up comedy again.

We went to five stand-up shows during the festival, having decided on three of them after attending the gala show. Hands down the best show we saw was Arsebiscuits by British-Indian storyteller and comedian Sameena Zehra. Her show was a roller coaster of intelligence, hilarity, dark humour and clever wit that has left me looking out for anything else featuring this multi-talented performer. Such a treat! 

Another on-form performance was Ladi Dadi Assadi like to party by Pax Assadi, who is really hitting his comedy stride. Ben Hurley is one of our favourites but we realised during Turn off your mind, relax and float down stream that we may have been to a few too many of his shows recently as we could recognise many of his stories from the opening lines. Guy Montgomery and Nick Rado served up fun nights out - even on a school night. 

It feels great to be able to support local artists and attend live events once again.

Sunday, 11 October 2020

Winetopia 2020

Winetopia logo
Winetopia came to town this weekend. More than 50 wineries offered 30 ml tastings of their products in our own takeaway Spiegelau glass. We explored some new wineries and also enjoyed listening to tales of wine and music with musician and composer Laughton Kora.

We're generally white wine fans (apart from oaked wines, chardonnay and pinot gris) and made some great additions to our yes list in 2019. This year we looked for more sauvignon blanc, sparkling wines, dry Riesling, Grüner Veltliner, Albariño and Viognier. We quickly spent our tokens, bought a few more and purchased four bottles to take home of wines that aren't too easy to find locally. A very successful evening.

Winetopia 2020 wines
Take home collection

2020 yes list highlights

Friday, 9 October 2020

Afternoon tea with lots of talk about baking

Wellington on a Plate moved to October this year and once again I've planned a busy itinerary for myself. The title of my first event is quite a mouthful - just like the delicious afternoon tea we were served. Everything you could ever want to know about baking, all in one afternoon was hosted by three industry veterans at Floriditas. Ruth Pretty, Julie le Clerc and Julie Clark delighted us with tales from their baking careers, baking failures and advice for those of us still practising our craft.

During the talk, we were served afternoon tea featuring menu items from each chef. 

Afternoon tea menu
An enticing menu

 I swapped my hot drink for a refreshing mocktail.

Mocktail
Seville orange and mint cordial
Food was presented in two courses: savoury and sweet. The savoury selection included a roast chicken cocktail sandwich with bacon and herb stuffing, spinach za'atar puff and an asparagus, parmesan and gruyere croissant. So very cheesy!

Savoury selection
Savoury selection

We all know I'm really about the sweets. Our sweet treats included a little Persian love cake, a soft ginger kiss, passionfruit and white chocolate macaron and a decadent dark chocolate strawberry tart. Divine!

Sweet treats
Sweet treats
This was a delightful afternoon with lovely company and great advice. If only we could enjoy afternoon tea like this every weekend.

Sunday, 13 September 2020

Digital Nights - Van Gogh Alive

Of all the immensely talented impressionist and post-impressionist artists, Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890) is probably my favourite. I'm an art admirer but not much of a visual artist myself. As a teacher whose strength was performing arts, I worried I wouldn't be able to do my students justice when it came to teaching visual art techniques. My colleagues suggested choosing an artist to study (guess who I chose?) and my class of 7-8 year olds got busy drawing and painting their bedrooms, their shoes, bowls of fruit, vases of flowers, self-portraits and some very tempestuous starry nights. Together, we unlocked the magic and beauty of impressionism by studying the work of Van Gogh.

Van Gogh's prolific collection of around 2100 art works famously sold a single piece during his lifetime, yet live on to bring pleasure 130 years later in a form he could never have imagined. Wellington is the first city to host Digital Nights - Van Gogh Alive outside, which is a bold and brave move during springtime. (Yes, it rained when we went and was very cold, but this didn't detract from the experience.)

Dozens of art works are projected onto giant shipping containers standing three-high and accompanied by an emotive score of well-known classics. Every standpoint offers a good view and standing further back makes the impressionist's brush strokes come alive.

Everyone has a favourite Van Gogh painting or three. I have been captivated by the scene depicted in Café Terrace at Night for as long as I can remember and have a canvas print of it hanging in my lounge. Phone photos can't even begin to capture the magic of seeing these masterpieces in such amplified splendour. Some zoomed in to reveal finer detail in the brush strokes. Here are a few highlights.

Café Terrace at Night
Café Terrace at Night - zoom view
Sunflowers
Sunflowers
Starry Night Over the Rhône
Starry Night Over the Rhône
The Starry Night
The Starry Night
Self-portrait
Self-portrait
Irises
Irises

So many art works, so many masterpieces and so much torment and sadness before an untimely death at age 37. Digital Nights - Van Gogh Alive is an art experience that speaks to your soul.

Sunday, 30 August 2020

Winter wrap-up

Winter 2020 has pretty much come and gone. Like most of this year, it's been a novel one. Somehow the days seem long yet the months have raced by. I struggle to recall what I've been up to. I haven't ventured out much since the first round of lockdown ended in May, mostly just socialising with close friends and whānau. I appreciate having the ability (and flexibility) to work from home to protect vulnerable family members but long days online has made work seem all-encompassing, especially when much of my volunteering obligations also happens in an online environment. 

Beautiful views like this one just around the corner from my home have made winter seem less intense. I'm so lucky to have this almost on my doorstep.

Petone beach
A winter's day in Petone

What I'm listening to

Podcasts - lots of them. Here's a selection of non-work podcasts that I enjoy.

What I'm reading

Biographies and memoirs, two of my favourite genres.

What I'm baking

Bread, mostly. Sourdough and the occasional cake or treat for Good Bitches Baking.

What I'm watching

Not much, really. I'm reading more these days but am still prone to the occasional binge.

What I'm looking forward to

plum blossoms

Plum blossoms to welcome spring
and prepare us for another summer of plums

Thursday, 14 May 2020

Life after lockdown

Today marks eight weeks since I arrived home from my whirlwind trip to Bangladesh. Two weeks of self-isolation in the spare room away from Mr Weka on my return morphed into a 4.5 week long country-wide lockdown. Restrictions eased into a state of limbo two weeks ago when non-essential businesses were allowed to begin trading again and people rushed out to buy the takeaways they'd been craving for the past month. Today we've entered alert level 2: not so restricted but still not quite normal.

Stay home, save lives logo

Eight weeks of lockdown has been a surreal experience. It's something we could never have predicted would happen just a few months ago and may never experience on this scale again. People seem to be divided into two camps: those who felt overly restricted, grieving their freedom and craving contact with the outside world versus those who embraced the solace afforded by the safety of a few weeks at home.

As a pair of introverts, Mr Weka and I have actually enjoyed the quieter pace of lockdown. Our single success indicator for the lockdown period was to emerge with all four of our parents still alive. We made it - just. Sure, our businesses have both taken a huge hit, but we'd prefer to weather the storm of several months with zero income in return for the health and safety of our family, friends and wider community. I realise how privileged I am to be able to say that.

The streets are now busy again. I'm in no rush to go out and get a haircut, eat at restaurants and bars or hug crowds of people. I think it will take some time to reduce my heightened sense of caution that resulted from fleeing a developing country at the start of global pandemic. And I know we're not completely out of danger yet.

the new normal text

As for returning to normal, I'm intrigued by the urgency I see. It seems the same people whose wellbeing was threatened by the stresses of living at an unsustainable pace are the ones who have most yearned for a return to the routines they've always dreamed of escaping. Does the desire for familiarity outweigh the stresses of uncertainty? Perhaps. But I don't see much benefit in returning to what wasn't working before.

What would a new normal look like? Is it really possible to create the normal we want rather than settling for the normal we know? Can I keep waking up without an alarm, being super-productive while working from the safety of my home office, cooking healthy meals, baking my own bread and enjoying the luxury of a daily lunch time walk along the beach? Or must I forfeit it all in favour of peak hour commuting on public transport to open plan offices with hot desks, working through lunch breaks then collapsing in a heap at the end of a day or week, all in the name of 'normal'? I know what makes more sense to me. I guess only time will tell.