grandson due in november

November (1 of 1)-24
a poem has been emerging over the last few months
as I remember my daughter in her first hours of breathing life
thinking about what it will be like for her to hold her son in his first hours
and how those who once held her and me and those before us,
are strangely present in the near identical blessing we have wished on one another

it wasn’t long ago
barely a breath of time
that I held you
as you breathed
your first five hundred breaths
and I held most of mine

it wasn’t long ago
that Lloyd Campbell Stewart held me
in my first week
smile on his sun-worn face
the only sign to those watching
of blessing whispering and noting
the transition, a future
warm and wriggling in his arms

it won’t be long now
’til I hold your first-born, a son –
and watching his eyes I will see
not only him,
not only my reflection,
not only you on your first day
(with saucer-like unblemished gaze)
but something of all who have gone before us,
and a glimpse of who will follow.


Hello Sunday

Anne and I snuck out on our day off for a taste of the new-ish menu at Hello Sunday.  We have a bias.  Sam, our 24 year old is the head chef and food designer there – so any advocacy about his food is reflective of parental pride and all that.  But… the cafe won Best Cafe of the Year in the 2015 Hospitality Awards plus three other awards including People’s Choice – so other people back us up!

Also, if we want to eat a meal prepared by chef Sam then we seem to have to pay for it!

We are not complaining… the food was remarkable – exquisite Turkish influences with egg, asparagus with pumpkin with a hint of fennel… light yet lasting… beautiful to the eye and a delight in each bite.

And the chef was in a crazy mood – lots of fun.

It is fantastic tracking the development in the vibe and food quality as Hello Sunday draws near to its second birthday.



Hello Sunday cafe, Christchurch

I am itchy to write a review but my bias is total – my eldest son Sam is the head chef and menu designer and my younger son Josh is on the front of house staff.
Hello Sunday on Elgin St, Sydenham, Christchurch

Hello Sunday on Elgin St, Sydenham, Christchurch

That declared and out of the way, I want to acknowledge the passion and energy of this young team – Christopher Penny (owner/manager) and Sam Stewart and the people alongside and around them have established a fantastic operation – the food (and I am paying my full share – they can’t afford favours!) has been consistently fresh, tasty, well-presented and an adventure.  The coffee has been smooth and good with no bitter edge (well done Switch, well done baristas!), and the surroundings, while echoing a little at this early stage of their development, are very pleasant with a nice comfortable homely retro feel.
We have encouraged many friends and church-folk to try it out and they have all reported that they loved the food and coffee and service (I am going to talk to the management about a ‘being a promoter’ discount one day).
Sydenham is bustling and the addition of this fine little cafe on Elgin Street near The Columbo mall and Academy movie theatre is fantastic.

3 years on

It is interesting to ponder life and all its joys and challenges as the third anniversary of the catastrophic February 22 earthquake in Christchurch comes by.  The ‘earthquake natives’ tell their stories of where they were – they are remembered vividly.  Our family stories offer four contrasting experiences.
Anne at home with dog barking, fish tank breaking, floor flooded with flapping fish, kitchen cupboards evacuating, and crockery breaking.
Sam at work at Misceo cafe with wine bottles breaking, staff panicking and next door the sound of hundreds of wine bottles toppling and breaking – he got called to help pull a collapsed chimney off a woman… she lost her legs.  After we caught up with him he biked into the city against the flow of people, looking for Josh.
Josh over the road from his central city school in a skateboard shop (it was lunchtime) grabbing a panicked young woman and heading out of the building only to witness many of the verandahs above the footpath collapsing against the shop windows – luckily the one where he was held.  Many people died in the precinct around him because of collapsing shop canopies.  He then made his way in the dust and rubble to Latimer Square – having to run for his life during the first aftershock as brick buildings beside him began to collapse.  He walked past the CTV building where 115 people died.  Later, after having met up with Sam, they walked out of the city – past the PGG building where 18 people died.  We didn’t have telephone contact with the boys for several hours.
Me at Canterbury University in the dining room of Rochester & Rutherford Hall where I do some chaplaincy.  Stupidly I dived under a grand piano – there were plenty of sturdy tables around but I am an idiot… After calming students and witnessing a van nearly tip over in the first aftershock I made my way home to the fish carnage, news of substantial damage in the central city, no power, and the very real and prolonged fear for Josh.  It was very destabilising – especially as there was little we could do for anyone.
My ongoing involvement was with our immediate church community and the leadership with others in the regional Presbyterian community.  I remember a moment one day a week or so later when I was handling two urgent emails on different computers while answering the telephone, when I also received a mobile phone call and the front door bell sounded as someone was dropping off food for the east-side of the city.  I learned to step out of my masculine limitations over those months – I learned to multi-task!
The thing that remains with me is the amazing post-quake influx of skilled and risk-taking people, untold resources, and encouragement and prayerfulness of people from all corners of the globe.  It was and remains quite overwhelming.  We are very thankful!
The city and its people are still recovering… some things are as they always were, but many things are changed – some forever.  It is not an easy city to live in, yet.  The city is still broken and many people are having considerable problems negotiating the ongoing disruption to their lives and especially to their homes.  But humans are wonderful at adapting to the world they find themselves in.
The photographs are from the city centre on 22 February taken by Sam as he biked in looking for Josh.  A wee sign of hope is in the last photographs are of a new cafe in Sydenham where Sam and Josh are working.  It is called Hello Sunday and it formally opens this weekend.  Hello Sunday – hello resurrection day!  New things spring forth and this little cafe (and the people around it) is very special indeed.  We live on.
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Finn the Cat

Finn montage

Finn montage

Yesterday, sadly, I backed over Finn our cat with the car today… he didn’t make it. All a bit sad around here! Finn was with us from February 2002 to December 2013. He’s always been a lively little guy with a great hunting instinct (rabbits and rats) in Dunedin and fortunately, not many birds. He also had a tendency towards clumsiness with a tail that dipped into food as he waked past, the ability to tip anything off a shelf or bench, the ability to turn the stereo up to full throttle, and a rather marvellous ability to wind up the dog by hitting him on the backside as he walked past. We will miss his greetings on the driveway, his leaping onto the roof with a tremendous thump at exactly twenty minutes after he was put out for the night, and his making himself pat-able with any guests in the house. Poor old Moby will miss him – they’ve been companions from infancy.
Another favourite memory is painting a room late into the night one time in Dunedin and hearing scratching on the window – there was Finn perched with his hind feet on an outdoor chair staring in at me and right beside him was a possum doing exactly the same…. priceless!

A real character!