Back Home at last!

After 6 weeks away wandering in Thailand, London and Paris we are back on the land and in the swing of things… and loving it. Mind you the times spent with the family were of course the best moments. I won’t go into details the fabulous food we had in London and Paris with J and G. Bangkok is in itself an exploration into some great restaurants that we thoroughly savoured with Tum and Sulma.

Towards the end of our stay in Thailand in spite of the lovely time with the family and being treated to spend some time in a superb resort by Tum, we had enough of Bangkok. We felt more assailed, besieged by the publicity everywhere. On the sky train for instance they have now erected huge televisions set on both side of the quays that blast add loudly. There is not a square inch of the train itself that is not plastered with adds and even smaller screens that do not give you a minute of respite. Even the announcement of the next station is overpowered by them. Not a minute a silence and the streets are even worse. Every wall, every post, every billboard invades you and wherever you happen to cast your eyes you are being reminded to buy this products or that. You are being reminded to look like this model, use this face whitening cream to resemble a westerner.  The cacophony of cars and the endless traffic jams was reaching saturation point. Enough of that! Let me go home now to the serenity of the land, to the songs of the birds, the bellowing of the cows and the sounds of water as it splashes in the ponds, the crowing of the rooster and the site of the newly established swamp hens in the large dam below.

As we approached the road and the farm, the air so crisp and fresh hit our nostrils and lungs. It felt invigorating. In the middle of winter that is what one would expect. Fortifying and biting. Another layer of clothes is definitely warranted during the chilly nights.The land was dry and almost brown.  The grass was very low. It is usually low in winter but this time there was nothing growing. Given the fact that the rain was scarce this summer there was very little growth that could be sustained in the leaner months of winter. The cows looked scrawny so I hurried to give them some good lucerne/hay. The one they love most. That was my first task. I took the wheelbarrow and filled with the good hay. They bellowed and I took off the electric fence and fed them. They chomped through it in no time at all. I reminded myself to give them some decent feed everyday. They need it!

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Scrawny cows

Magali and Mereki came to pick us up at the station after a sleepless night on the plane from Bangkok. What a treat to be so welcomed. She had prepared a succulent lasagna, cleaned the house and everything looked so spick and span. What a delight to be home. Elsi the dog was beside herself. It was hard to know if she was wagging her tail or her tail was wagging her whole plump body. Fripouille,  the cat looked scared and bewildered at first scampering away at the site of the car with people in it, but upon hearing my voice  he darted toward me rubbing himself against my leg and I am sure I could hear him purr.

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Fripouille

After finally a good night sleep in your own bed away from the noise and chaos of the cities, I wondered in the vegetable garden and was surprised to see so many goodies still growing. Heaps of cabbages, lettuces, carrots, peas, leeks, fennel, and sweet potatoes and much more. I hardly  bought any vegetable since we got back. What a treat! Fresh salads from the garden. roasted sweet potatoes, and I even made some Kimchi with the daikon (white radish) carrots, cabbage, ginger and turmeric and chillies, yes all from the garden!

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Sweet Potatoes and Fennel

I decided to spend some time redoing the garden beds and already I am weeding and cleaning. Out of  the 8 beds that we use I replanted the leeks and the carrots in two new ones and carried on weeding the others. What a lovely task to be in contact with the earth and the mild winter sun!

Sulma and Tum came 5 days after us from Bangkok and are spending 10days enjoying the calm and the fresh air of the countryside. Lots of good cooking and sharing some good wines and company as usual. Magali treated us to some of her delicious crepes last night and a good yarn. Mereki found a good playmate in Sulma that evening and could not believe his luck. The dishes were done and the kitchen tidied ready for the next day’s feast…..which will be lamb cutlets with fresh garden peas.

Till next time.

PS: 2 photos courtesy of Sulma. Cows and cat.

Here is Huan Hin reflections

In the luxurious resort called the Boathouse, we are spending the first day lazily reading, meandering along the criss-cross of pools that lead to the sea. A superb labyrinth of immaculately maintained crystal clear pools. Each house on the property has a ramp that unfolds into the pool. Impeccably blue, beautifully kept gardens sprinkled with coconut trees, palms, local trees offering colours, scents and a touch of Japanese influence. A delight to the eyes and the senses. At the end of the myriads of pools lay an infinity pool made of salt water. Warm, inviting and a view onto the ocean where the waves rhythmically break onto the small stone wall separating the pool from the sea. Idyllic indeed. All created for total well being and relaxation and big wallets.

We have been very fortunate to come here. A friend invited us to use her flat in this lovely setting. How could we refuse? The days so far have been spent just reading, eating, talking, exploring the local eateries, breathing the fresh sea air… A real change from the farm and all that it entails. Thanks to Tum!

In the end, walking around the luxurious condo, admiring the beauty of it all there is a feeling of “so what”? Doing it once or twice is fine, but the thought of doing it every day could become very quickly not only boring but sterile, even futile. One is sheltered from the outside word like in a cocoon. Yes, the blue limpid waters of the labyrinth pools are magnificent. At first there is certainly astonishment, awe, admiration in front of this super architecture, this feast of engineering and implementation. Somehow I feel a little out of my league in there.

But one thing is sure for a holiday it is just fine. Living here on an everyday basis ( the thought has crossed our mind) is definitely not our cup of tea. If everything is done for you what have you got left to do? Gossiping, spending money in shopping complexes, pedicure, manicure, hairdresser, massage, dancing, drinking, dinner parties and cocktails at someone’s place and endless chatter about nothing. Not my dream living. I would be missing the gardens, the cows, the animals and the mountains.

Everyday we taxied to Huahin to eat. So far, we discovered a great family restaurant called Deya Deli and we had the most lovely home cooking for quite a while. In between showers we get to visit the local supermarket and get a few provisions for dinner.

Deya Deli, was really nice but the waiter was too overbearing. Could not stop talking and his laugh sounded so fake with his contorted lips and and white teeth that he seems just out of a comic Thai film or some canned laughter from a sitcom. Jamie was relentless…that is what his mum called him. With is posh English accent and his perfect Thai he came straight out of boarding school into the restaurant business…not quite but almost. Spoke too much and invaded our little corner with his views of the world. Nice for a little while to exchange points of views, but he did no know where to withdraw gracefully and let us eat.

But the one thing that bothers me in this trip is the boredom. The boredom of seeing the world. It seems that I am not interested in visiting places, admiring temples, checking museums for the latest painting or work of arts, meandering down Oxford St, Sukumvit, Rue de Rivoli or the newer streets of Huahin to witness the same brand names, the same shops, the same opulence and affluence.

Down the streets of HuaHin the myriads of little shops selling the same colourful plasticky items made in China and the open drains filled with blue, yellow and white plastic bags. The cars with tinted windows splashing rain water onto the pedestrians and the little pavements full of misplaced tiles or holes. Traffic jams, clogged streets, fumes spurting out of buses, horns from impatient drivers, helicopters hovering over the town every 10 minutes, aeroplanes landing in the nearby airport, scooters two or three abreast at times race about with exhaust opened. I have a sense of deja vu. The layout of the town, the people, the smell, the buildings, I find myself in Phnom Penh. I know some of you will say: ” no way” – that does not resemble Cambodia at all. On the outer it does, but it is a fact that Khmer people are much poorer than Thais.There is not as much misery here as I have seen in my 5 years in Phnom Penh. That was many moons ago…some 15 years. But according to some friends still living there, poverty prevails at an alarming rate. I have not seen this in Thailand. But that is out a little out of my sphere right now.

One thing is certain is that in my experience the Thais that we have encountered are just lovely and easy to be with. Quite a contrast with the Vietnamese where one could feel the harshness that they have endured over the years of wars and occupation. Thailand has never been occupy by a foreign country for long. Except in the last World war briefly by the Japanese.

Where does this leads me in terms of my own feeling in these travels? Seeing family, yes always wonderful to be with them all. Sharing thoughts, food, excursions and some precious moment together. That is definitely a big plus. And that is what we have done.

But I am not any more into sightseeing. I think we we do not have the stamina anymore. And the thing that is really hard on us is the food. So many temptations, yes yummy! But after a while we just crave some simple food. Tired of French food, or English pub food or Thai curries and soups full of MSG. Home food is best and that is what we looking for right now. I think that we are ready to go home now after all this ranting.
Till next time.

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Up Up and away

On our way up… up and away,

This morning after getting up a little earlier, we pressed on to have breakfast. Tea first thing then my favourite Piccolo coffee… and Peter is the best coffee maker I have ever come across. ( of course I had to say that did not I ?) What a delightful brew he makes. Everything studied to a T. The right amount of coffee, the right grind in the grinder, the right amount of milk, the right heat under the little Italian Expresso machine and with all this attention he obtains a super coffee. I must this is my favourite time in the morning. I feel privilege to savour such a lovely made coffee.

The suitcases were ready from last night, the chickens were out early today, the dog was lucky to have a fresh bone before we went and Fripouille the cat also managed to get a big hug and a big feed.

Kylie and Angus arrived on time to pick us. Ready to go… with lots of eagerness we jumped in the car and off to the Station to drove. Arriving there we found out that the train was to be delayed at least an hour due to some road work on the tracks. We started to panic a little, but we had given ourself a good margin. In spite of the longer trip we had plenty of time to spare.

The plane was perfectly on time for a change. Left at 14h on the dot. We should be in Bangkok in good time.

High in the air the topography of this continent is just amazing. Arid, bleached, parched, sparse forests, but more dry that is what it looks like from above. Skies are clear and a deep blue fading to whitish in the far distance. A sort of haze envelops the horizon and everything fades away in a blue hue. The difference is hard to tell between the sky and the earth just at the zenith. It blends and melts. The grounds underneath my feet is just mosaic of rivers, estuaries, low mountains and as we just cross the gulf of Carpentaria, the water shines an uneven blue-green. Tiny boats can be seen down below. But the parched earth underneath makes you really see that Australia is a land of deserts and dry earth. Scare homes even in these remotes parts can be seen peppering the landscape. Just a few nautical miles after the shores of the Gulf, islands upon islands are scattered all around the path of the plane. They can be seen in their entirety or little bits of some and then the plane arrives again onto dry mountainous landscape. Miles upon miles the earth shows us her beauty and her uniqueness. Rugged, dry, rivers winding along it like giant snaked slithering along difficult terrain. Patches of green forests, dry lakes or salt lakes which appeared totally bleached from 10km above its surface.
It is scary and at the same time quite exhilarating to be able to witness such spectacle. But also what a privilege to see the planet from that far above. Of course, I have seen it countless times but it is always awesome to be reminded of your place in the universe.

It is not the first that we cross these magic landscapes, but every time it is an absolute delight to share such a wonderful and unique beauty.

With every mountains, rivers, oceans, cities or villages glittering in the day or night and you are leaving behind you know that you are a little closer to your destination. It is amazing how the world looks so small from the plane high above the in the sky. It is amazing how such an engine loaded with hundred of passengers, cargos and God knows what else can take us so far above the surface of the planet. it never stops to surprise me or enchant me and like a little girl I am ecstatic and truly in awe at modern man capacities, ingenuity, and amazing engineering to be able to make me witness such a kaleidoscopic sceneries.

So here we are in this Boeing 777 transporting us from Brisbane to Bangkok in 8h. All the magic of lying is laid bare at our feet. Just 10 km down. Just incredible! Even though we have made this trip countless time, from the seat on this plane there is always the feeling that the earth is for everyone. There is not a single nation that owns this. Yet, we carve the planet into tiny little pieces representing this country or that. From above for me these distinctions do not exist at all. I do not see pieces of delineated compartments belonging to this group of people or another. I do not see a carved up territory, i do not see races, I do not see colours, I do not see religions, I do not see any of that. I just see just a vast expansion of land, of earth, with its own typical mountain or rivers, with its own typical forests or plains, with its own sea or ocean and the billions of microbes, insects, birds, animals of every shape and sizes in fact the whole spectrum of life on earth all roaming upon it and above all that every human being is sharing.

The problem with human is that we want to possess, to acquire, to say that it is MINE. Just that little bit of paradise is mine. Is it? We fight for it, we kill for it, we conquer, mutilate, assassinate, ,torture, rape and pillage. Or the fun part, we pretend that we are descendent of some Gods and assume the role of King, Prince and all the tittles that go with the charade. We take it so seriously that we prolong this myth for centuries.

I am always amazed that folks actually venerate the queen of one country or another. Watching the news at times makes me cringe. What draw these people to this figure head? Why are they so attracted to some royals? I do think that there is some sort of mystic feeling or envy of the good old days. Days of our childhood where we have been told or read myths and legends, fairy tales and stories and we fantasise about our prince charming coming to take us away into a magic castle and we live happily ever after.

These fantasies are kept live through the press and media in general and revive in us a sort of flame of better times: Ha! the good old days! But in these good old days you could have been a destitute peasant begging his lord for mercy or some slave totally enchained to his master. But obviously, we do not want these sorts of image at all do we? We prefer to continue the myth that all is rosy and that we are neither beggars nor slaves but some knight in shiny armour or some princess being rescued from poverty and marrying a rich prince. Oh boy! Is that why we venerate some how the Kings and Queens of this world and entertain in our petty mind all sorts of totally erroneous images and connections? In other words a total illusion.

Forgetting in the identification of the moment that these royals are leeches on the public purse, parasites, pay no taxes, live in great pump, flicker their hands to wave to the proletariat as if some Gods, oh and please do not touch them…no, they are not humans and to touch them would be blasphemy I suppose.

One day one our prime Minister committed this horror, Prime Minister Keating had the audacity to touch the queen of England in one of her tours. The newspapers were full of it. Outrage burst out and it was a scandal for days on end. Yes, they are some Gods and to even think of touching them would be committing a crime. In the olden days one might be hung I suppose or decapitated. But that is not that bad today. Only the newspaper get outraged on behalf of the ruling class.

And my next question is: who had the audacity and authority suddenly to elevate themselves to some status.? Were not they some highway robbers amassing wealth, conquering, submitting people to their rule? They invented a word or 2 or 3…King, Queen and all the affiliated pompous followers were given some tittle.

What brought me to talk about all that? What distraction? Oh, yes flying over the earth brought about all sorts of connotations in my head. The vastness and the immensity of the earth made me realise how small we are as human in the scale of things. Very small indeed! We are a funny ( not many would laugh tho) race of creatures, I would keep the word funny but I find it not that inappropriate , better say weird, unique, bizarre, great and also so cruel. I guess the two sides of the coin are represented in what we are. The Ying and the Yang. It looks like on this earth everything seems to have an opposite to counterbalance it.

Night approaches as we near Bangkok. Distinct lines rise in the horizon. Pink..fading away fast as night settles in and the rain is lashing at the plane’s windows. The engine is roaring louder and louder,the altitude is almost nil, and what is comforting is that the usual ear pop just did not occur…modern planes are getting better. The wings flaps have started to fold from the main wings, the brakes are out with a great swooosh, just a few bumps and the mass of steel has touched the ground and it feels like the plane is purring down the runway to find its place in the allocated bay. The very last rays of light can be seen so faint and try to peep through, but the night has already engulfed us in a flash as we land into Bangkok sticky and humid air clings to your clothes. But the last sentence is only a reminiscence…been there so many times that I already imagine what it might be like at that time of the day when the door of the mighty Boing open and a blast of warm air invades your lungs.

But Bangkok is already far away as the Airbus transports us over half of the earth to England.

Till next time.

The balustrade is here. So is everything else.

Well, after waiting for more than 3 weeks the new balustrade to be brought in and Peter installed it. He always says” won’t take too long” but with one thing and another not going right it ends up being much longer….much longer than expected. It is done now and the painting is finished. Some more deck planks needed to be replaced as a result of the overall design. Peter has been actively pursuing the finishing touches.

Balustrade

BougainAn array of coloursvillieas in full bloom

We are having lunch on the new veranda almost everyday. It is just exquisite and so holiday like. We do say to ourselves: “Who needs to go anywhere and pay such an enormous amount of money to just enjoy the views of the few cows on the opposite property, or just watch the passing cars, the joggers up and down the country lane, the familiar site of a little red van, the tractor from next door marching slowly to the adjacent house and hearing the voice from John down the path bellowing at his cows or dog. The birds are also much closer and the fact that we are sitting enjoying our lunch or a cup of coffee seems that we are engulfed with a closeness to it all. Of course our little butcher birds which have multiplied to 5 by now are incessantly chirping to demand food. It is never enough.. But, they are always watching for the little cat which might be hidden under a chair or a towel. All these scenes take on a different atmosphere and a sort of closer to home feeling. Yes, the familiarity with it all. A sense of tranquility and security envelopes one. But I do have a slight objection to the word security. Why? because security is only fictitious at this point in time. And above a making of the self.

It is amazing how we do want to possess all of it. The mind goes on incessantly wanting to bring back everything to a narrow frame. A frame that is old, obsolete, of no consequence to the NOW. As we catch ourselves doing just that, there is at the same time a feeling of wanting to possess the moment. In fact not accepting the vastness of what is beyond description. Just because it is beyond it all. How can we just describe this moment of “ISNESS”. No words can come close to it. And yet, that is exactly what the mind wants to do. Describing the impossible. How hard it is to accept just what is. When one is engulfed by this feeling there is no staying with it. Hard for the mind of course. We are so accustomed to wanting to do so, that is how restless it is.
Yet, this feeling of belonging to this totality is very real and present. The whole body-mind is witnessing a moment that is itself in the present and it is the present that the mind does not seem to accept. The reason is simple. Present is not part of it. It knows the future and the past and these are the only referential points that it has. Hence the need to bring it back within its confines. Description, reduction, limitation, appropriation of a sort.

The mind does not accept space or what is. The proof is the encounter with nature. Surrounded by its immensity it becomes speechless for a moment then very quickly tries to describe it. Sitting having lunch in this new setting accompanied by birds, trees, skies, clouds and all the wonders of nature, one is truly ONE with it all and for a brief instant a sort of bliss overwhelms one. Boy! what was that? What did I feel? What happened? Suddenly I had no ME. But instead of accepting it, we rush to the description and trying to rationalise it, to appropriate it. And here we descend into the narrow confines of the mind of reducing this bliss to words.

That in itself is not an issue at all. You might even say normal activity of the mind, it does that, just that. So where is the problem? Well, there is no problem as long as you are aware of that movement and don’t try to erase it or suppress it. The seeing of it is already a freedom and an understanding of how we function as humans.

But most people want to hang on to this moment. Wanting to re-create it, re-live it, possess it, to crystallise it, but it is gone and the next one is never going to be the same. How can we do that? A moment that is passed is passed. Oh yes, we must remember it for ever in our memory. OOPS! Memory, that means in the realm of what is gone. Why is it so hard to accept the present for what it is? We are scared of loosing our identity, our position and our raison d’être. An identity mind you, that is a total fabrication of what everybody has told us for decades, centuries and millennia of what we should be and we believed them so readily. We build a persona entirely on fictitious hearsay…. and we accept it no question asked. Well, we have no choice at the start. But as we mature….if we do, then we could start asking some real questions.

The existence of our life is precious and asking simple questions, observing, contemplating, investigating, pondering and finding out what and who we are is the very purpose of our humanity. So that we can “become” an enriched human being. That would be of benefit to the entire planet….but I am getting carried away.

Till next time.

Wintery day and reflections

Night comes quickly now and by 5pm we are all in and ready for a fire. Humidity falls down rapidly, chill is in the air. Even tho, the sun goes down to the west and shows it luminous last colours of pink, purple and crimson red fading to grey, one can feel that the chill factor is here. Winter descended upon us quite fast this year. Colder already than last year.

Peter and I have decided to get stuck into the garden this wintry afternoon.
Tho, it is cold in the early morning and late evening, the days are at times just glorious when it does not rain too much. A nice 18 to 20 degree is almost the norm. Hence it is a pleasure to spend time out in the garden.

Now that the veranda is finished or almost and we are waiting for the balustrade to be delivered, the garden needs some remodeling. New concept on how to create something different. I am not so good at visualising all these things in the garden. Our dear friend Scott, might drop in later to give some advice, but in the meantime, we have decided to get a rose bed going. Hoping that the wallabies would not get a taste for them. They, apparently love roses and demolish them with gusto. We shall wait and see what happens. A little project that is worth a try as we both adore roses especially the ones with a real rose smell.( That is me)

Polished deck now

Rose bed in progressRose bed coming on.

We worked till late, both tired from a hearty physical workout. Almost forgetting the time when suddenly one feels the cold getting into your bones. time to get in, but not before a last look at what we have done so far. From up the veranda we ponder and admire what we have accomplished so far. Digging these invasive little bulbs that multiply like crazy and picking them out one by one and putting them in a bag heading for destruction.
We both admire the work so far….It does not look too much does it….It will get there… slowly. Tomorrow will be another day in the progression on that rose bed.

While we had a few people for lunch the other day where we entertained the idea of death and it consequences, discussed politics, our way of life, the fate of the world, the drastic consequences of an austere budget, the plight of refugees, the lies of our leaders, and then we delved onto the idea of death some more. A friend said that life and death are part of the same cycle. We all agreed and started to exchange our ideas on this. Referring to our common experience, religions, literature and our personal feelings on the subject. But what would happen if it struck one of us right now? Silence. Well, we’ll get on with it I suppose seems to be the consensus. Were we telling the truth or were we deluding ourselves? Were we putting on a brave face in order to say how strong we were? Were we really avoiding the pain of loss? The answers will be for next time as we decided to meet again and discuss it further over some nice food and wines.

The afternoon went on, drinking some beautiful French wines, followed by coffee and Algerian sweets. Then we all are heading out to the cars. as we exchanged our goodbyes I noticed that one our cows was laying down. It was dead. Four legs up in the air. Consternation all around….Life and death in the raw. Unbelievable said Richard, we were just talking about it. There was a moment of consternation, silence and then we all had to accept it….Life and death come together.

Bianca our youngest heifer was apparently bitten by a brown snake according to our next door neighbour who is a seasoned farmer. How do you know that Ron? Well, says he : “if the wild dogs have not got stuck into her then it is a snake”. Fact or fiction? But he was adamant about it. So far the corpse is still intact in the pit waiting to be cremated.

The week before that we played grand parents. Our friend Magali, a single mother asked us to look after Mereki for a day or two. But Peter and I said, we can have him the full 3 days. She makes crepes and needed some time off for the show. She makes wonderful crepes indeed. And Mardi Grass was a good experience for her. A great adventure for both of us. Finding the time to be with a four-year old all day long and giving him our full attention. Reading him stories, watching a few films at night together in bed. Playing trains. Feeding the dog, the cat, the fish, the chickens, the cows. Cooking pizza. Going for walks and of course Peter took him for a ride on the tractor. Wow! He loved it. A real boys’ adventure!

Pizza made by Mereki
Peter and Mereki

Mardi Grass is a once a year event where people from everywhere around the world and locals of course gather to demand that Hemp be legalised for medicinal purposes and industrial uses. It has been going on for quite a while now. But we seldom attend Peter and I. We have been a few times to watch the parade and the speeches. The police was apparently quite tamed this year. It has seldom been a problem anyway. Peaceful, colourful and fun for everyone. 3 days of fun really.

Well, tonight is very chilly out and Peter just lit a fire. I don’t think that I will have anything for dinner as I am still full from lunch with fish and chips.Not bought mind you but all made here. The chips were just succulent and we really gorged ourselves on them. Calories here we go!

Till next time again