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The Sweet Life

I’m positively buzzed. I was sitting at my desk some months ago when – DING! – “you’ve got mail.” Sheridan Gundry had sent an email to The Gisborne Herald about a swarm of bees in her backyard. If you have never seen one they are dangerous-looking things. Menacing and wandering. A pretender to the throne has hatched in the hive and there can only be one queen in the hexagonal home.

I picked up the phone and gave Sheridan a buzz. It turns out she was the communications manager in her house. It was her partner Mike who was the bee man. We got chatting about the funny honey-making insects and that was that. As a perennial YES man I put down the phone having agreed to take up the sweet task of beekeeping.

The best part of beekeeping is the minimal amount of anything. The bees do the work.  Your job, more or less, is to not let them die. Kind of like children or plants.

The hardest part of beekeeping is the minimal amount of anything. You have to remember you helped bring them into this world and not forget they exist.

But the hobby ain’t cheap. The gear costs a fair few hundred. Thankfully our species is pretty flaky. 

“Oh beekeeping sounds cool! 

Let’s give that a go babe, 

I think we could really make a go at this!”

People love experimenting and trying things out. You probably know three or four people who have given up on the craft already. Go borrow all their gear until they forget they ever gave it to you.

As it was, my sister had bought Practical Beekeeping before she gave up on the honey game and handed that over. Another friend lent us all the other gear we needed. 

But it was Mike who was the real MVP. Someone who has very much not given up on the sweet life. Mike runs beekeeping workshops at the Environment Centre and has hives all over the show. It was he that got the ball rolling finding a swarm of bees out in the wild, captured it and brought the usurper queen and her followers to our kingdom. 

What a kind man. 

Now my brother and I are beekeepers. Jethro bought the boxes and paint so my total outgoings so far is 26 dollars to account for the six-pack of beers that must accompany us to the hives.

For me, joy in life comes from toddling into a new world for a while and having a look around, talking to the people inside their spacetime and hanging about in their secret worlds. The honey world is one worth dipping your toes in for a little nectar.

Bee people are just like us, except maybe a little sweeter. They walk and talk about bees, a gentle hum in conversation about the weather, flowers and sky. It’s a relaxed hobby, like panning for gold.

And like gold, there are those who enjoy the business, and there are those with the Fever.

The crazy eye.

Darting tongue.

Shaky hands.

The big M.

Manuka is where money is at and where the bad blood starts. Don’t look at them, just keep walking. If you do get stuck talking to one, DO NOT ask them where their hives are in case they take you as a thief for their gold.

Anyway. That’s all I know. Jethro and Mike have done most of the beekeeping. I’m more of a moral support worker. Conceptual and thoughtful.

Start asking around. Call up your flakiest friends with too much spare coin and recommend they give beekeeping a go today.

Start asking around. Call up your flakiest friends with too much spare coin and recommend they give beekeeping a go today.

There is a free course at EIT and the Environment Centre runs courses from time to time.

Story and Photographs by Jack Marshall.

LOVE, LIFE & LOAF

So you made it out of lockdown. You learnt a language. Mastered the downward dog and achieved a symbiotic relationship with your garden. Well done. Your only regret – You never could quite nail that sourdough. No rise, no tight crumb, or is it a loose crumb… Whatever. All you managed was to bake a sticky slop into what you referred to as a ‘Middle Eastern flatbread.’ I get it.

Sourdough is proper tricky if you don’t have a pair of hands and eyes which have been through the process of a good bake. The tactile feel for great dough is built upon many dud loaves half-baked.

I’ve spent the last four months digging down the floury rabbit hole, kneading the kinks and tricks out of the internet and piles of flour so you don’t have to – that perfect loaf can still be yours.

Even if you’re not going to revive that old starter, after reading this you’ll know where you went wrong, and pray to God we don’t go back into lockdown – hope to your lucky quarantine stars you find this information useless.

Rule number one: Take your time. Sourdough is like friendship. You needn’t do a lot, but be present when they need you. The fermentation process takes approximately four hours once you add your starter to the flour and water in warm weather. Read that again. In warm weather. Apologies to remind you again, but in this country, we are both free of Covid-19 and insulated houses. Even in a so-called ‘warm’ house, the windows are thin and the floors breathe. 

Chances are your dough will need a couple of extra hours to bring it to life. Ways around this: Leave your mixture under the heat pump or by the fire. I occasionally preheat the oven for a couple of minutes making a simple ‘proving box.’ Make sure no one turns the oven on while it’s in there.

Rule number two: Your starter needs peak life. You’ll see some recipes call for an extra step. Making a ‘levain’ or a ‘sponge.’ Basically, all they’re asking you to do is feed your starter right before you make your bread. This means that by the time you come around to mixing, your sourdough starter is full of life, ready to give your loaf the energy to seize the day and start eating away at all the goodness in your flour. 

Rule number three: Keep at it. Bread is love and bread is life. I never got into football because I was under the impression I was too old (seventeen), never learnt a language because I was beyond youth (twenty-three). Do you know Quincy Jones? Producer of the Beatles, Michael Jackson and every chart-topper you’ve heard. He’s pushing late eighties and he has started to learn Mandarin. Making a loaf is a journey and you never need get off the boat. If you keep your starter in the fridge you only need to feed it once a week… And if you’re super-duper lacking time, you can even freeze it! Laziness rules in the sourdough world.

Love is warm and so is bread. The breaking of bread is a religious experience. There is life inside of food, made with your two hands, it gives a certain kind of pleasure unknown to the capitalist state of mind. By baking, it is possible to consume without being consumerist.

Baking bread helps me rise; the act has become a cathartic exercise. Instead of being an unachieving nobody that’s going nowhere slow. With a little morning effort mixed with a dash of vague and dotty attention to wheat and water, my day fills the house with the crusty and toasted aroma of life. The pleasure of passing a loaf warm bread to a friend is an act of self-love shared. But I don’t do it for them. After I’ve dropped theirs off, I head home and cut myself a thick slice of bread, lather it up and down in butter and sit content.

Story by Jack Marshall

Photograph X Tom Teutenberg

PAKIWAITARA – IF THIS WALL COULD TALK

Amongst the 6500 of children who took part in the Children’s Tile Wall project in 1999 were two nine year old dudes, Thomas Teutenberg at Central School, and Jack Pullen at Mangapapa School.

The adult Thomas, now mostly known as Tom, speculates that he “probably stared at that tile for quite some time.”

He is rather perplexed by his self portrait, in which he appears as a Pokemon character by the name of Charizard, with red wings emerging from his head. “I probably had some Pokemon cards in my pocket at the time, and I do remember that I had acquired a whole set of the Charizard cards, which were pretty rare, and I was quite proud of.  So that’s probably where that all came from”.

An adult Jack, now known as Jack Marshall, recalls that he was probably living in a cow shed with his dad at the time of the Tile Wall project, which he remembers thinking was the best thing in the world, “We had a little potbelly fire we’d heat the jug on. It was very rustic – like camping, but all the time”.  Jack also recalls 1999 as the year in which the internet came on the scene; the year he touched a cell phone for the very first time. 

Jack’s tile is especially memorable for the bars that feature as the background to his self portrait. And while Jack’s face is in front of the bars as opposed to behind it, he ruminates that the bars were probably a reflection of the powerlessness he was experiencing as an individualistic nine year old still being told when to go to bed, and to do the dishes.

Pakiwaitara – If This Wall Could Talk – is the first project that has been announced for the 2020 Te Tairāwhiti Arts Festival and it involves the creation of a digital retrospective of the Children’s Tile Wall.  

The intention of the organisers is to try and track down as many of the tiles’ creators as possible and for those creators to then create an updated digital portrait for a new digital wall; a work to express that generation as they are now.  

It’s an interesting proposition for those original artists as they attempt to conjure up memory of that time they painted a self portrait on a tile twenty years ago; as they come face to face with that artwork, which now also exists in the digital realm; and moreover start to consider how they might represent themselves as they are now, here in these interesting times of 2020.

The project organisers suggest some simple starting points to that challenge: “Me pēhea koe? How are you?” “Where are you? What have you been up to? What is your life now?” 

It is tempting to try and draw parallels between past and present selves; Tom admits to still collecting things, with cameras replacing the Pokemon cards “I’m trying to get rid of a few actually..not all in working condition” and Jack muses that he’s a different man to his nine year old self because of his different name, but still essentially still the same “just hairier, wealthier and more independent”.

I am looking forward to seeing what a wall of selfies looks like in 2020. I imagine it might not be the easiest process for a lot of people, but for those who manage to dig it in and produce something, it will provide a poignant window into more hazy memories of another time and self, once we’re another twenty years down the track.

Pakiwaitara will feature when the Festival runs from 2-11 October.

Words by Sarah Cleave, Images X Tom Teutenberg, Sarah Cleave.

TEN SPEEDS TO FREEDOM

Never has Gisborne seen so many booties on bike seats – the cyclists’ renaissance is truly here. As reported in The Guardian, ‘Bicycles are the new toilet paper’. Sales are booming and shops are running low on stock. Because let’s face it: Walking sucks. It’s boring, you don’t go far and it takes an age to get anywhere.

For any reputable cyclist city one thing is a must: A community bike shed. The first space I went to was a Melbourne spot called The Bike Shed (not very creative with the name). They had old bikes ready to be repaired with helpful volunteers who’d not lift a spanner for the world… Instead, they would happily teach anyone how to fix a bike and had tools ready for willing hands. Bring in a bent wheel and you’d leave with it straight.

“Can you fix my bike for me?”

“No. We are not a bike shop and will not fix your bike for you. However, we will teach you to fix your bike.”

Taken from The Bike Shed’s FAQ page.

The reason it works is because of the overabundance of broken bikes. They’re everywhere, under the house, in the garage, on the roof and ready for repair. If you’re missing a pedal, you can replace it or give the remains to a bike shed and contribute to someone else’s two-wheeled Frankenstein transportation device.

This is not some wacky new idea, the country is bountiful with bike sheds. Auckland has Tumeke Cycle Space and Christchurch RAD Bikes. There’s a bike shed in nearly every corner of the globe and it is now time for an East Coast addition.

If you’re wondering where on earth to start, there’s a handy little how-to guide called How to Start a Bike Kitchen set up by folks in the urban cycling Mecca, Portland.

To make this work we need to get our cogs into gear: 

First, we need a space. As retail struggles and the popularity of ‘for lease’ signs boom, we need to repurpose our city-centre as a space for our community to share. We need to find a shop to share with like-minded souls, or simply populate one of the empty ones and fill it with tools, local tinkers and comfortable couches. 

Second, we need parts! Bikes gathering dust can be brought to the shed and put to good use. Dull and dead bikes can be torn apart, stripped of parts and stored for the next repair. Decent ones can be kept aside for new riders to build upon and to repair their bikes for cheap.

Finally, we need you. Community members with cognition of cycles, who prefer their hands dirty with grease, and who like to dabble in a chin wag and share a little bike knowledge. The East Coast is numerous in engineers, builders, sculptors and DIY-ers. If we feed you enough coffee and biscuits can we get this city cycling?!

We have a thriving mountain biking community, flatlands and plenty of know-how. We have the opportunity to build the future we want. We don’t need to ask for a better city, in the true DIY spirit, we need to do it ourselves.

If you’re interested in being a spoke in the wheel of our cycling revolution, get in touch. We need all the Gizzy locals we can get to donate old bikes, slurp a cup of coffee and help bring about the grand opening of Gisborne’s first community bike shed.

Get in touch via jackmarshallonline@gmail.com.

By Jack Marshall

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