Taking a baklava lesson in Turkey

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

My blood is still boiling from hearing about those grotty little vandals wrecking part of our beautiful new cycle trail.

I try really hard not to have a bad attitude about the kids I see on trail bikes, but it's pretty difficult when they go roaring past the "no motorbikes" signs, wrecking the peace of Wakatipu, and generally showing the signs of a pretty bad attitude themselves, leaving bottles and burger wrappers and traumatised walkers in their wake.

I asked some of them who were hooning up and down Tobins Track one day why they didn't go trail biking somewhere more suitable, and they said no-one would let them.

I am sure there are plenty of property owners who would be delighted to let them use their land in exchange for some hard work, but somehow their sneery, snarly tone made me suspect they would not be very interested in the hard work side of things.

It's a shame fuel for trail bikes isn't far more expensive: here, the cost of petrol is over $3 a litre and puts it way out of reach for most people.

Many people have motorbikes, but they are a whole family's main mode of transport. You often see mum, dad and the three kids, all helmetless, puttering along.

Given that most people's monthly power bill is under $NZ100 and they find that outrageous, they aren't going to be squandering money on unnecessary fooling around on motorbikes.

They don't really squander money on much here: I was back at the imam's house yesterday getting a lesson in making baklava.

No kitchen whatsoever, so we sat on our bottoms in the shadehouse, with all the bowls and boards and rolling pins on a blanket and, after making the dough, rolled 45 tiny balls into paper thin sheets of pastry which were stacked with nuts and honey and oil, while a nosy bunch of goats and chickens gawped at us, hoping a few scraps came their way.

Then the pans were put in the wood-fired oven and out came utter deliciousness.

Everything is made by hand: the imam built his own house here, and he carves all the fishing lures his sons use. They have just solar power, which is enough to run a tiny 12V fridge and charge their cellphones.

I forgot to ask if I could use the loo so I could check that out, but imagine it is not much more than a hole in the ground, somehow, and I am always a bit squeamish about that sort of thing, especially after seeing Slumdog Millionaire.

It's such a contrast between how they are living five minutes' walk from the sea, and some of the superyachts tied up nearby. I love watching their tiny wooden boat going round the bay delivering the morning bread, and wondering if the people in the posh boats realise where the bread comes from.

Some of them never even get off their boats for a swim or a kayak or anything at all, just sit inside in the air-conditioning. I feel so sorry for them.

And nothing could be greater than the sorrow I felt for the parents of one of my daughter's friends who was killed in a car crash near Auckland recently.

They were on holiday at the time, and I can't imagine how terrible it must have been to get that phone call.

The funeral was on Monday and my daughter said they all wore bright red lipstick, which was their friend's trademark, to remember her.

I'll never see red lipstick again without thinking of her.

But on a happier note, a huge happy 50th birthday to Jane Turner, who still looks ridiculously young and gorgeous.

And also to Annabel Cohen, who is lucky enough to be just 21 this week and is so clever and capable that I am sure that by the time she is 50, she will have done amazing things.

If you're feeling too happy, read Herman Koch's The Dinner.

Two brothers and their wives go out to an expensive restaurant.

Their children have done something unspeakably awful and this colours the whole story.

It's a nasty read, and like We Need to Talk about Kevin or The Slap, it makes you look at your own parenting and the way you see the world.

It's most uncomfortable the whole time: one of those books where you just can't stop reading, but you shiver at the tension between the characters.

I despised both brothers and when I finally got to the end, I was relieved it was over and could stop feeling like a guest at a house where the hosts are simmering with anger at each other but pretending everything is OK.

Terrific, fascinating writing, but not recommended if you like things light and cheery.

- miranda@queenstown.co.nz


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