I forget who said (and I paraphrase, clumsily) that one’s family is like a country no-one else comes from.
During life I have met and continue to meet people who shape me, people for whom I have great love and respect and people without whom I cannot imagine living but my brother, he is my countryman.
And what a countryman he is. He has grown to be a person who, even were he a stranger, I would admire. He is smart without being stuffy, funny, handsome, gentle and loving.
He treats others well, with tolerance and respect and has a personal discipline I cannot begin to fathom.
Our young lives were so entwined that I can’t remember life without him, but a few stories stand out in particular. When we were at primary school, we used to walk home together after school. There was a big “stranger danger” campaign on, I think based on the fact that sleepy little New Zealand had just had its first well-publicised kidnapping case, that of Teresa McCormack, and fear was in the air.
All the way home, we would lay careful plans about what action we would take if anyone tried to steal off with us. “You kick him in the balls and I’ll jump on his back” was one of our better plans.
One time, a bichon frise came up behind Mark and bit him. He didn’t seem too upset – in fact, there are some pictures of him in his pyjamas, displaying the bite whilst grinning rather inanely but I felt crushed that I had failed in my duty to protect him and to this day, I am a little afraid of dogs.
We made up many a strange and mystifying rhyme too, some to annoy each other – nothing could get me going like him saying “eeeh eeh” with a rising intonation for some reason – the funniest was probably “hari mari poo-chan” an odd mix of gibberish, English and Japanese, and the most bizarre a ditty we used to sing while we were sitting in the bath.
We were the king and queen of some snowy country and would die if the snow melted but naturally, the “snow” being bubbles, it eventually would disappear. To prevent this we would chant “snow, snow, stay with us, stay with us or we will die.” I know, weird.
Through all the difficult times and the scary times I never questioned he would be there. When we went to stay in Japan with our grandparents for two and then later four months at a time to go to school in Japan, we were together so it was okay. When we had to go to a Japanese after school programme that we both hated because of all the kids, we were the only ones who found reading Japanese almost impossible to master, we had an ally in each other.
With my brother, I never have to ask where I stand because I already know.
He even still speaks to me despite the fact that I used to brandish a hairbrush and yell “Sara and her trusty hairbrush SAVE THE DAY!” and then whack him with the business end of it.
He’s the only one who can call me “bumface” and make it sound like an endearment.
Happy Birthday Mark-Musashi, I’ll always be in your corner.
Bounty Cake adapted barely from Nigella Lawson
For the cake
220 grams (about 4 rings) of pineapple in juice, drained (save 2 tablespoons of the juice)
75 grams (1/4 cup) of cream cheese
200 grams (1 and 3/5 cup) all purpose flour
125 grams (generous half cup) caster sugar
75 grams (generous 1/3 cup) light brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
200 grams (9/10 cup) butter
40 grams (1/2 cup) of cocoa, sieved
Preheat the oven to 180 celsius (350 fahrenheit) and butter and line a 22 cm cake tin.
Put the pineapple into a food processor and whizz until crushed.
Add the cream cheese and whizz again until well mixed.
Add the other ingredients and whizz one more time until it forms a smooth batter.
Pour into the tin and bake for 35 – 40 minutes until a skewer inserted comes out clean.
Cool in the tin for 10 minutes and then turn out to cool on a rack.
For the icing
2 egg whites
100 grams caster sugar
4 tablespoons golden syrup (I thought this seemed excessive and just used 3)
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar if you have it (I don’t and it was fine)
2 teaspoons coconut essence
40 grams dessicated coconut
Make a double boiler – arrange a very clean bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water. The bottom of the bowl should not be touching the water.
Put all but the last 2 ingredients into the bowl and whisk with a handmixer with very clean attachments (if there is any fat or yolk in the whites they won’t whip) until it holds peaks. This will take about 5 minutes and is probably the most taxing part of making the cake which isn’t saying much – it’s a pretty “money for nothing” kind of cake.
Remove the bowl from the saucepan. Please be careful here, steam burns are the worst burns of all.
Whisk in the coconut essence.
Making sure the cake is stone cold, slice it in half and sandwich the 2 pieces with a third of the icing.
Use the rest to ice the top (again I found the amount excessive and only used about 2/3 of the icing) and sprinkle the dessicated coconut over.