Sunday, December 21, 2008

over 600 responses to this blog in new york times

The New York Times December 8, 2008, 10:00 pm

It’s the Holidays. How About Just One?

I had my last drink nearly 16 years ago, so you’d think I would have assimilated pretty much every bit of unpleasantness associated with clean and sober life in a society that remains thoroughly sodden with alcohol. But I still can’t quite handle the holidays.

It’s not that I’m driven to drink; just to a certain uncomfortable distraction that doesn’t leave until the holiday season thankfully does. And it’s not just that the holidays seem to have been invented for the express purpose of promoting — no, necessitating — irresponsible alcoholic consumption.

There’s something in the alone-in-the-crowdness of the holiday party circuit, the forced pleasantries and laughter, the charge to be friendly and engaging — but only in a trivial and superficial way — that is very much like the existential condition of the alcoholic psyche. So the holidays not only remind me of drink; they remind me of how it felt to be a drunk.

In fact, I have frequently been overheard to explain to the sort of person who still finds it good sport to ask me how I came to be addicted to alcohol and what it’s like now to be stone cold sober, “You know how you feel at Christmas at the umpteenth family gathering or company cocktail party. You really need that drink, right? That’s the way I used to feel all the time.”

And as with one’s first adolescent love, a certain euphoric recall about the drinking life remains lodged in the psyche of any drunk no matter how many years he has remained sober. Even after 16 years, especially at holiday time, a tiny voice still occasionally visits, asking, “Why can’t you just have one?”

Addiction scientists have puzzled over what distinguishes the alcoholic psyche from the “normal” one, or even, the mentally ill one. While some association between abusive drinking and both bipolar disorder and depression has been found, your garden-variety drunk does not go on manic flights of fancy or hear voices or hallucinate; he isn’t even all that prone to clinical depression. The best I can say from personal experience is that we all tend to be afflicted by a low-grade dysphoria, a sort of constant melancholy that causes feelings of unease, isolation and dissatisfaction with life — an “inexplicable ache,” I once heard it called.

But is this nature or nurture? I personally READ MORE OF THIS BLOG

beekeepers win award

As someone who lives in a country (New Zealand) whose - arguably - most admired person, was a bee-keeper before mountain climbing, Mt Everest, and world fame meant he no longer tended them, its good to see the bee-keepers win the World Challenge 08.

Plan Bee has won the World Challenge 08. The Pakistani project helps female beekeepers boost their income by selling high quality honey. The northern areas of Pakistan are among the poorest and most isolated regions in the country. Effective development assistance has yet to reach these hilly, remote areas and it is the women and children who are most affected. The only workable and sustainable solution is to capitalise on local resources, building on what is achievable as well as culturally acceptable. read more

Congratualions from me! I'm sure our Sir Ed would be pleased too.

Friday, December 19, 2008

I love cheese!

I love food and New Zealand has great food - including our cheese ( photo taken at Lyttelton Farmers market)

Living alone, I whip up few culinary delights: this is despite watching the occasional TV chef, attending a cooking school in Thailand, managing a cafe in Athens, and working as an entree chef in an Italian restaurant, under a temperamental French Chef in Wales!

However this experience has qualified me, like people at an art gallery, to know what I like - and what I miss when I travel. So if it’s cheese you miss, or you want to know more about New Zealand cheese’s here are some ideas from Christchurch, Canterbury.

Right in Christchurch is a wonderful specialist cheese shop – Canterbury Cheesemongers. I used to buy cheese from their cute little refrigerated van when I was at the Christchurch Arts Centre Market each weekend. Since then they have opened an independent shop at 44 Salisbury St only minutes from Cathedral Square - and moments from my apartment: they tell me ‘the van is now selling fresh salmon in Fairlie’.

With an aim to not only sell cheese from people, who care about what they are making, but also to stock foods that go well with cheese, their shop is well worth a visit for nibbles or to stock your campervan for you travels. They also bake bread and other sweet things so pop in for a coffee and enjoy the smells of home cooking while you buy your cheese (or free range eggs, yummy fig and walnut roll or Hazelwood dukkah – all food I can recommend).

Most are of their cheeses are hand made by people who are both skilled and passionate and who thrive on the satisfaction of producing great cheese.

They take on the job of ripening these cheeses by providing perfect conditions for them to develop their potential flavour. They say “We don't suffocate a cheese in plastic or wax but allow it to develop a natural rind of mould and bacteria. This is what people have done since cheese making started - this is how you get better, more interesting and delicious cheese.”

So eschew international fast food places and any restaurants that will deliver just the same meals you can get at home, and visit the local farmers markets and cheese factories and give your taste buds a simple but scrumptious surprise with our tasty local foods.

POST EARTHQUAKE UPDATE (4th Sept 2010) from the Canterbury Cheesemongers ... "If there is something I have learnt over the last couple of weeks it's that Canterbury Cheesemongers is much more than bricks and mortar. It's all about people, cheese and good food.  Since the finality of seeing the old building truly flattened, we have been keeping ourselves busy this week getting our little old yellow van up and running and looking at possible new premises. 
and .. January 2011 .. 
New shop - The Arts Centre, Old Registry Building, 301 Montreal St, Christchurch.  Entrance from the Market Square.Open Tuesday to Friday 10am-6pm and Saturday 10am – 5pm.  Closed Sunday, Monday and public holidays.

We are pretty happy with the end result of the last couple months hard work...  who knows, maybe in a little while, we’ll be pleased that the Earthquake shook us into our new and better shop

Thursday, December 18, 2008

new cheap-chic in Singapore

I have have been sent infomation about the new ibis that is to set the standard for chic-economy hotel accommodation in Singapore - which is set to get its first internationally branded economy hotel when the ibis Singapore on Bencoolen opens for business on February 24, 2009.

Famed food celebrity and renowned father of Singapores food culture KF Seetoh will be on board for the hotel’s restaurant TASTE.

the press release says

The hotel will debut with an opening rate of S$148 per room including complimentary Wi-Fi access.

The ibis is ideally located on Bencoolen Street in the heart of the Bugis - cultural and art district - and within easy reach of the popular Orchard Road shopping district. The hotel is also ideally situated for business travellers, with some of Singapore’s largest corporate offices and the Suntec Singapore International Convention and Exhibition Centre close by.

The street was named after Sir Stamford Raffles, who came to Singapore after being Governor of Bencoolen (now Bengkulu) in Sumatra.

The S$145 million 538 room hotel is the largest ibis outside Europe and is being developed by LaSalle Investment Management. It will be managed by Accor, who earlier this year re-located its Asia Pacific headquarters to Singapore.

All rooms boast contemporary, stylish design and furnishings, with high ceilings and large bay windows. Full communications services are available including broadband internet and flat-screen TVs with cable channels. Rooms also offer an in-room safe, tea/coffee making facilities and en-suite bathroom facilities.

General Manager of the hotel, Puneet Dhawan, said: “The opening of the ibis will herald in a new era of international-quality economy hotel accommodation for Singapore.

“Singaporean tourism authorities are predicting 17 million tourists arrivals by 2017, and with the destination’s growing status as Asia Pacific’s tourism hub there has been an urgent need for quality, affordable accommodation in the heart of the city.

“While there are a number of hotel projects under way in Singapore, the vast majority are in the upscale or luxury sectors when the largest growth market is actually the economy sector – as with airlines. Singapore now has its own budget airlines terminal and is increasingly attracting low-cost air carriers to hub via Singapore, so there is a definite need for more internationally-branded economy accommodation. Existing hotels in the 3-star market are notoriously variable in standards, but the ibis Singapore brings with it the guarantee of one of the world’s largest economy hotel brands.

“We will be opening with a rate of S$148, which – given the hotel’s location and international branding – will make the ibis a very attractive base for both business and leisure travellers, and will help dispel the idea that Singapore is an expensive destination.”

The opening of the first ibis hotel in Singapore is part of the rapid expansion of the brand in the Asia Pacific region. It will be the 60th ibis to open in the region. ibis has a significant presence, and is rapidly growing, in all of Singapore’s top six inbound markets – Indonesia, China, India, Australia, UK and South Korea.

Bookings for the hotel can be made +65 800 61 61 367 or via

ibis, the worldwide economy hotel brand of the Accor group, offers consistent quality accommodation and services in all its hotels, for the best local value: a well-designed and fully-equipped en-suite bedroom, major hotel services available 24/7 and a wide choice of on-site food and beverage options. The quality of the ibis standard has been recognised by the International Organization for Standardization certification ISO 9001 since 1997. ibis is also the world’s first hotel chain to demonstrate its environmental commitment through securing the ISO 14001 certification, which has already been awarded to nearly one third of its hotels.
Established in 1974, ibis is the European leader and one of the first economy hotel chains in the world, with nearly 90,000 rooms and 800 hotels in 40 countries, including ibis Singapore on Bencoolen.
For additional information, please visit

Accor, a major global group and the European leader in hotels, as well as the global leader in services to corporate clients and public institutions, operates in nearly 100 countries with 150,000 employees. It offers to its clients over 40 years of expertise in two core businesses:
• Hotels, with the Sofitel, Pullman, MGallery, Novotel, Mercure, Suitehotel, ibis, all seasons, Etap Hotel, Formule 1 and Motel 6 brands, representing 4,000 hotels and nearly 500,000 rooms in 90 countries, as well as strategically related activities, such as LenĂ´tre;
• Services, with 30 million people in 40 countries benefiting from Accor Services products in employee and public benefits, rewards and loyalty, and expense management.

check out my web page for more infomation about travel ... and come back here to see more about Singapore very soon