Herder draw sour attention

Arrowtown book buyer Miranda Spary continues her regular column about her recommendations for a good read, and life as she sees it ...

In the bay we love most, we have often seen a lady in a headscarf and her husband herding their goats, then sit watching the boats come in and out.

Every morning a little boat comes round with boys selling hot and impossibly delicious bread from a woodfired oven.

The boys who sell the bread invited my darling to come and have tea up at their farm. How could we resist?

We wanted to take a present and decided against a bottle of wine in case they were strict Muslims and did not drink.

Lucky decision.

When we got to their farm, we discovered that their parents are the couple who sit down at the beach with the goats and not only are they quite conservative Muslims, but the father is the Imam at the tiny mosque in a settlement of just 25 families.

He and his three sons either have, or are studying for university degrees and speak very good English.

They made us fresh plum juice and sage tea and told us about life in this village where the only access is by boat. This is life at its most rustic.

If everyone else in the world disappeared, these people would be able to survive forever, living the way people have lived here for millennia apart from having solar power for their computer and cellphones.

They go to the market once a week for a bit of a social life and to buy the few things they do not produce for themselves.

She makes rugs on a very primitive loom from the goat hair and wool her husband spins on an equally primitive spindle.

It is hard to believe these beautifully made, intricate rugs have come off such basic devices.

We invited them back to the boat for tea with us the next day and I made sure all the booze and boobs were hidden away.

Unfortunately, the meltemi wind sprang up - it is a very annoying swirly, gusty wind that chops up the sea and gusts strongly enough to throw full and heavy bags of rubbish out of the special rubbish net. It was the first time we had ever seen a wave in this particular bay.

It was too rough for our new friends to come over to our boat and after our conversation about it which involved a lot of arm waving and pointless shouting, they started beating something on the ground with big sticks.

Our very silly Spanish friend said they were furious about not coming for tea, so we got out the binoculars and discreetly (well, as discreetly as you can when you are only 50 metres away) watched their frenetic thrashing.

It turned out it was a fresh goatskin which they were curing, not some anger management tactic.

The next day they turned up before I had a chance to remove the evidence of our immoral ways - they had to climb up past Kelly's very sexy lingerie hanging out to dry and I hoped Mrs Imam had not heard of Fifty Shades of Grey which was lying around.

Luckily its sober cover gives no hint of the wickedness within.

Mrs Imam loved the Annabel Langbein cookbook and was agog at the size of fish featured in it.

Her sons go fishing every day, several times a day, and they always report to us when they have caught one - not very often, and never very large.

We learnt all about the Haj - the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca that they all hope to do in a lifetime.

In this province, everyone can apply for the ballot - thousands apply for the 500 places, and even being the Imam does not get you any sort of VIP priority.

We bought some baklava from the baklava boat to give them for afternoon tea, and Mrs Imam politely told me it was very bad baklava and would I like to come for a baklava making lesson at her house?

I am so excited and just cannot wait to go and have a jolly good snoop.

Oh, and a baklava lesson.

My lovely friend Jenny sent me an e-book Dearie, The Remarkable Life of Julia Child by Bob Spitz.

I had already seen the movie about her, and loved it, but this goes into so much more depth about this eccentric, genius cooking whizz.

It is even more delicious reading about the exotic food when we are eating so simply, and the author's explanation of the changes in America's cooking (as in New Zealand) after World War 2 is excellent.

It is as much a story about our world as it is about Julia Child, but it is told through stories about this gawky giantess.

I had never heard about Bob Spitz, but apparently his biography of The Beatles is equally good.

Oh dear, another one for the pile of must-reads.

- miranda@queenstown.co.nz