April 05

The Cook Islands were wet. We had rain on most days, but only one whole day and a couple of afternoons were completely washed out. We sunbathed during the bright bits and snorkelled in the rain. The latter (the swimming, not the rain), at the tiny atoll of Aitutaki, was outstanding - giant clams, big fish, clear water. There was music too - a fabulous little acoustic band called The Sunrays.

The Sunrays in full flow...

They were playing to accompany our dinner at the resort, and ran through what I took to be loads of Cook Islands favourites. Lovely soft acoustic ukulele and guitar, no drums, and sweet, very laid back singing. The big guy on the left plays a uke about as big as his forearm, while the old guy on the right immediately reminded me of those Cuban maestros from the Buena Vista Social Club.

The big guy on the left...

We'd had bands playing through dinner at our Rarotongan hotel - much the same sort of repertoire, but with amplified ukes and drum machines spewing out cod Pacific/Latin rhythms. With a limited repertoire of arrangements, and restricted dynamic range, those bands swiftly became a mildly diverting background noise - and by the end of the evening something of an irritant.

The Sunrays are in a different league. Their obvious love of singing, and the infectious nature of their playing compensated for any sameness in the arrangements. The only songs I recognised were My Bonny (rather more laid back than Tony Sheridan and The Silver Beatles' version) and a beautiful Teddy Bear, without any Elvis overtones. Some might say that the wine, after a rather wonderful day peering into giant clams, was affecting my judgement, but I prefer to believe that The Sunrays are one of the Pacific's great undiscovered secrets. I commend them and their island to you all.

Today was beautiful: the perfect autumn day. Incredible deep blue sky, the poplars turning yellow, and dew on the lawns. The truffiere's looking good, there are olives in the grove, and tonight's dinner featured an all-garden ratatouille (yellow courgette, baby aubergine, chilli (two kinds), red tomatoes and green tomatoes, oregano and basil. Served with stuffed marrow - a courgette that got away. We did pizzas in the wood-fired oven on Sunday, and they were rather tasty too. Holidays now. While MIke the editor labours over my turgid prose and a designer friend (Tony Cohen in London) considers typography, I shall whisk my family off to Rarotonga and Aitutaki for 10 days. It'll rain.

I've just created a new category for this blog: Journalism. [NB: from 03/06 the "Articles" topic] It's a repository for the longer bits of writing I've had published in recent years, and which I think its worth making available on the net as a resource. The pieces are quite long - several thousand words each - but if you have any interest in some of the things we're growing at Limestone Hills, climate change, or terroir, they're worth dipping in to. Because these pieces are not blog items as such, they won't appear on the front page. Just click on the Journalism link in the sidebar. Eventually I'll be adding something like Picosearch to the site, which will help in finding things not published on the front page or in the archives.